Hotel Rural Vale do Rio: Running on 100% renewable energy

Hotel Rural Vale do Rio

Hotel Rural Vale do Rio

The owners of this hotel in rural Portugal began their journey knowing from the outset - at design stage - that they wanted sustainable solutions to their energy use, partly because they have an unusual historical legacy on the site.

Can you take us on your hotel or resort’s sustainability journey? 

The construction of the Hotel Rural Vale do Rio started with the acquisition of a field which had already included a mini-hydric [hydroelectric generator]. This mini-hydric is the oldest in Portugal, dated from 1800 and it is situated where the writer Bento Carqueja used to live. Bento Carqueja was one of the owners of the first journal of Porto city ( “O Comérico do Porto”), and for the journal, he needed paper, therefore he built a paper factory. This mini-hydric was then built to produce electricity for the paper factory, which does not operate anymore, and the whole city of Oliveira de Azemeis.  

Why did you feel it was important to have a sustainable hotel?

We felt it was important to have a sustainable hotel for many reasons, the first one being our family business. Our main expertise is energy, and therefore we thought that if we were going to build a hotel, it might as well be a fully sustainable and renewable one.  Nowadays, we have to think about the future. As we know, climate change is not a myth, it is happening; it affects everything, water, food, air…  Also after talking to other hotel owners and advisors, we understood that the second major cost of a hotel is the energy.

Lastly, the hotel is situated in the middle of the forest and with a view to the River Caima, and it just made sense to be a renewable and sustainable hotel.

What are the key initiatives that the hotel has undertaken to improve its sustainability?

Due to our main expertise (energy), the hotel works with renewable and sustainable energy sources, either for electricity and the air-conditioning system, or to produce heat. For that we have 2 biomass boilers, one mini-hydric, solar panels, photovoltaic panels, absorption chiller and a vegetable oil/Biodiesel engine. 

Although the hotel is 100% renewable/sustainable, we also try to minimise the heat and electrical consumption using an energy management system. 

Another great concern is the water consumption. To minimise it we have water regulated taps in all rooms. Also, regarding illumination, we use LEDs indoors and outdoors.

Besides all the above, we try to show the client (consumer) that it is important to worry about the environment. For example, if the client has the air conditioner on inside the room, when he/she opens the balcony door and leaves it open, the air conditioner turns off automatically.

As we know, climate change is not a myth, it is happening; it affects everything, water, food, air.

What initiatives have had the biggest impact on your sustainability and / or your bottom line? Do you know how much energy / water / waste / money you’ve saved?

The biggest impact that we had is without a doubt the wood chip boilers. Regarding electricity and heat, we save around 70.000 euros / year and 120.000 euros / year respectively.

What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge is when the winter comes. The humidity of the wood chips used for the boiler increases, therefore we spend 20% more wood chips to produce the same heat.

How have guests and / or business partners reacted to your sustainability programmes?

Due to our sustainability programmes, we noticed that costumers are giving more importance to this reality, and are curious to know how everything in the hotel works.

_MG_3253Is there a stand-out aspect to your sustainability that is unusual or eye-catching or different from other hotels?

What is eye-catching to our hotel is the canal of the mini-hydric, which fits beautifully in the hotel environment. 

What plans do you have for your hotel’s sustainability in the future?

We’re looking forward for new systems that we could implement in the future in our hotel. And thinking about the future, we just acquired electrical charges for Tesla and electric cars in our facilities.

Please list any awards and / or certificates your hotel has been awarded for its sustainability.

- Best Eco Hotel in Portugal by “Boa cama, boa mesa – expresso”

- Relaxing luxury hotel of the year 2018 by “Luxury Travel Guide”

What tips or advice would you offer to any other hotel in your region which is just beginning the sustainability journey?

The advice we would give to other hotels that are just beginning the sustainability journey is to consider renewables energies before thinking of the final project for heat and electricity. This might cost more to finance the hotel at the beginning. However, the investment is paid in the short term.

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