Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. aims to bolster its image as a good corporate citizen via a partnership with a utility company that produces renewable energy.

In the deal, RCCL will provide a financial guarantee to the developer of the Reading Wind Facility, a wind turbine electric plant in Kansas. The renewable energy that the facility produces is intended to offset up to 12% of the carbon emissions from RCCL's ships.

The project near Emporia, Kansas, will be developed by Southern Power, which will sell the electricity into the grid for use by retail customers.

Royal Caribbean's role will be to provide an upfront guarantee that the power will be sold at a set price through a financial instrument called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The price (which was not disclosed) provides certainty that the project will happen.

The scheme has gained popularity as big corporations seek to offset the greenhouse gas emissions that can be attributed to their goods or services. Other companies that have environmental PPAs with renewable-energy producers include Microsoft, General Motors, Google and General Mills.

The PPAs allow the sponsor companies to claim credit for any carbon-emission reductions.

RCCL claims to be the first travel company in a Power Purchase Agreement.

"This agreement complements our longstanding strategic initiatives to reduce the company's emissions and become a more sustainable operator," RCCL chairman Richard Fain said.  

RCCL ships emit more than 4.2 million tons of greenhouse gases a year, mostly the combustion by-product carbon dioxide that many scientists say traps heat in the atmosphere, thereby raising global temperatures.

To counter the impact, RCCL plans to sponsor the Reading Wind Facility, which would use 62 wind turbines with blades up to 230 feet long to spin generators that will produce 760,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

The offset is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from energy used by 55,400 average U.S. homes, RCCL said.

RCCL has a goal of reducing greenhouse emissions by 35% by 2020, according to its 2017 Sustainability Report.

"We are constantly looking for new ways to reduce our environmental footprint, both in the short and long term, and thanks to our partnership with Southern Power, this is the latest step in our journey," Fain said.

The Sustainability Report says propulsion accounts for 60% of the energy RCCL ships consume. Ships also burn fuel to make electricity.

To date, RCCL's major greenhouse strategy has been to reduce fuel consumption through a myriad of seagoing energy-saving initiatives. Fain said those initiatives will continue, and that RCCL was on track to reach the 35% reduction without the wind farm agreement.

RCCL's 12-year agreement to buy electricity from Southern Power would begin in 2020 with the start-up of the Reading plant and run through 2032.  

Although RCCL has a call center in Wichita, Kansas, Fain said he doesn't expect it would use electricity from the wind farm.

He said that although no regulations yet require RCCL to offset its carbon emissions, the company's constituencies are eager to see it do so.

"We have a number of stakeholders," Fain said. "Our guests expect us to meet our social responsibilities. Our employees expect us to meet our social responsibilities. And if we do that, it will allow us to attract the best employees. And if we attract the best employees, we will produce the best product," Fain said.

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