For all of the attractions and engagement that makes Las Vegas popular for more than 40 million visitors per year, the city is responsible for its fair share of waste. But now with the Wynn and Encore’s pioneering efforts, sustainable meetings and conventions are a reality.
Proving that eco-friendly innovations at a massive scale can be accomplished, Wynn’s 560,000-sq.-ft. convention center now operates on 100% renewable energy delivered from on-site rooftop solar panels and the 160-acre Wynn Solar Facility. It’s an industry first for a gaming operator in Nevada and one of the boldest in the country. As proof, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore have been honored with Four Green Globes, the highest sustainable building certification from the Green Building Initiative.
The project is spearheaded by Erik Hansen, chief sustainability officer for Wynn Resorts. “Because the consumption of energy in Las Vegas is so high, we wanted to make responsible decisions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint,” he explains.
Step one was to create its own power source by building a 20-megawatt utility-scale solar farm on 160 acres in the Nevada desert. Combined with solar panels on the resort rooftop, the self-generated power offsets 75% of peak summer usage and nearly 80% during the other peak times.
“Integrating renewable energy into the mix is a core benefit for our guests, for our resort and for our shareholders,” says Hansen. “Solar is a great hedge against possible fluctuation in natural gas prices, so we were able to come in at a fixed price from a resource that isn’t dependent on fossil fuels. As long as the sun is shining, we’re getting energy from this facility.”
Solar panels cover the rooftop of Wynn Las Vegas’ new two-level expansion, which more than doubles meeting and convention space by adding 18 new rooms totaling 300,000 square feet. Other highlights are an outdoor pavilion with a 20,000-sq.-ft. lawn, a 2,500-sq.-ft. hospitality lounge with a 9-foot LED video wall and an 83,000-sq.-ft. pillarless ballroom, the largest at the resort and one of the largest in Vegas.
Wynn has also expanded the resort’s commitment to recycling, materials and waste reduction, water and energy conservation, responsible food sourcing and single-use plastic abatement.
“We’re constantly looking for products that not only meet the sustainability needs of initiatives but also meet our high standards,” Hansen says.
Plastic straws were eliminated in 2018 and replaced by plant-based materials which naturally disintegrate in 90 days. And all food in to-go packaging is now biodegradable or compostable.
To accommodate sustainability requirements from clients, Wynn offers eco-friendly packages like the Zero Carbon, Zero Waste Event service which can calculate the energy usage of, for example, a three-day conference with 1,000 attendees, then offset their stay with 100% renewable energy. “The benefits that groups can earn renewable energy credits for producing a zero-carbon-footprint event, and then can use their energy credits in their social governance sustainability reports,” says Hansen.