Restaurateurs Go Green

OCEAN CITY – David and Janet Twining were not trying to be environmental trendsetters, they simply realize that in business, sometimes you have to spend money to make money and in this case spend money to save a ton of it.

The Twinings, however, might just be viewed as one of the local pioneers of alternative energy if the green movement ever takes off in the area, as they are the first restaurateurs to take the first serious leap to greener pastures.

Technically, Nantuckets Restaurant, owned and operated by the Twinings for the past 19 years, is not in the resort of Ocean City, per say, as it sits just north of the town limits in Fenwick Island. However, it is no less noteworthy that the acclaimed restaurant will be partially powered by a 45-foot wind turbine and 48 solar panels, which will be installed by Delaware-based Flexera in the upcoming weeks.

After seeing the cost of energy skyrocket in recent years, David Twining felt compelled to utilize the generous grant programs and tax refunds and he bit the proverbial bullet, despite the current economy, and made a $100,000-plus initial investment to install the two alternative energy sources on his property.

“We got the grants on literally the last day before the money ran out, so we ended up getting 50 percent through grants, and 30 percent from state tax credits,” said Twining. “With that said, we should have the initial investment paid off in 22 months since about 80 percent of the investment is coming back to us.”

Ocean City spent the better part of six months debating and orchestrating an ordinance that would allow wind turbines on properties, but since then no projects have broken ground.

Twining, however, might have a bit of an advantage, as his location does not have to adhere to the strict setback rules, since he is in Sussex County, and not the town of Ocean City.

“It’s all commercial property and we own both the lots, so if the turbine fell it would fall either on our beach house or in our parking lot,” said Twining, “We were told that it would withstand 190 mph winds, and if that happened in Fenwick, the turbine would probably be the only thing left standing.”

Although the turbine might be much more aesthetically noticeable, Twining says the solar panels will be much more efficient, citing that it will probably reduce his energy costs by almost 30 percent initially and produce four times the energy as the turbine.

In 2005, the Twinings closed Nantuckets for several months in order to execute a million dollar renovation of the building, which included upgraded energy and air conditioning systems.

“Between refrigeration and propane, plus the high cost of electricity, costs had gotten back to what they were in 2005 when we rebuilt and upgraded our systems to cut our energy costs in half, so this year, we found we were spending the exact amount as what we were before we redid the building,” said Twining.

In anticipation of neighbor concerns, or perhaps in a strategic move to gain the support of the residents, the Twinings posted their plans for the project in the restaurant and received overwhelming support and coinciding “kudos” for their direction.

“The board in Georgetown were very impressed with what we brought to them and how we had gained support of our neighbors, and they approved it unanimously,” said Twining. “We are very excited for Flexera to get started with the installation and for the customers to see the entire process.”

Over the course of the next “6-8 weeks”, the project will be tackled while the restaurant is closed during the day, according to Flexera Sales Manager Finn McCabe.

“We are hoping that what Nantuckets is doing starts a trend in the area, and people really embrace how efficient these energy sources are for running a good business,” said McCabe. “Unfortunately, some of the funding sources as far as grants go have been cut or exhausted, and the waiting list for solar is getting a bit long, but we hope people seriously consider taking the step towards green energy.”

One local business that has taken the leap is Park Place Hotel on the Boardwalk in Ocean City. In the fall, the hotel installed 36 solar panels to their rooftop, and, according to manager Todd Berger, the move has been very beneficial thus far.

“The panels are definitely working, but we are still learning to fine tune our system so we get full power from the panels,” Berger said. “It is, however, very inspirational to hear that other organizations, like Nantuckets, are stepping up to the plate and trying to make a difference.”

Twining called the move a “no-brainer,” citing that harnessing the sun’s rays, which is essentially the livelihood of everyone in the area, is a reason that other business people should consider it seriously.

“I think that people are going to wait and see how this works for us, and then determine if they are going to do it,” said Janet Twining. “Everyone is watching what they are spending and this isn’t a proven thing yet in Ocean City or Fenwick, so I guess we are the guinea pigs.”

In addition to the huge cost savings that Nantuckets will enjoy over the next 25 years (lifespan of the solar panels), they have also found a more efficient way to run their business and simultaneously increased their property value, as well as the neighboring property values.

“This is our little world at Nantuckets, and we are just trying to make our world a better place for us, and for everyone who comes here,” said Janet Twining.