Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Massachusetts Ski Resort Installs Own Wind Turbine

Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is now the first ski area to make it's own electricity with clean, renewable wind power

After a ski trip in January 2006, I was struck by the thought that every ski resort in the country should be generating some of their own power by installing small wind turbines at their windy, mountaintop ski areas:

Imagine if you had a piece of property that sat in a very high wind area with average wind speeds of 15 miles per hour (at 10 meters) or better blowing every day. Now also imagine that you ran a business on that property that consumed quite a bit of energy and had a not very green reputation to boot. Let's also add that there are significant financial incentives available in your state for renewable energy installations that could help finance over half the cost. Now why wouldn't you want to install a few wind turbines?

Well that's exactly the question that owners and operators of ski resorts around the country ought to be asking themselves.
Well, as I reported back in January '06, someone had a similar idea and actually ran with it, only on a much larger scale than I had proposed: Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, a ski area in Massachusetts just flipped the switch on a 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbine that will power their operations, according to a press release I received today.

The dedication ceremony for the "Zephyr" wind turbine, held today, was the culmination of a three-year project to erect a 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbine taller than the Statue of Liberty, according to the press release.

Other ski resorts, like Aspen, Vale and Whistler, have made major purchases of renewable energy credits to offset the electricity they consume, but Jiminy Peak is the first to actually generate their own clean, renewable energy.

Brian Fairbank, president and CEO of the resort and the driving impetus behind the effort to harness the wind, said a combination of wind power and resort conservation will reduce the resort's energy costs by 49.4 percent in 2007-08. The $3.9 million wind turbine project, which Fairbank said was “the most complex financing project of my life,” is nonetheless expected to pay for itself in seven years.

The wind turbine requires a wind speed of 6 mph to operate and can work in winds gusting up to 55 mph. During periods when the mountain doesn't need the electricity, it will be sold back to the power company. “When the wind is howling at 2 a.m. and we're all asleep, we'll continue to make electricity for the grid,” said Fairbank.

The turbine will generate approximately 4,600,000 kWh each year, just over 60% of the approximately 7,500,000 kWh Jiminy Peak consumes a year.

According to the company, rising electricity prices were a major motivator to install their own wind turbine. Electricity prices were 50% higher during the 2005-2006 ski season than the previous year, Jiminy Peak reports. "Wind power will provide Jiminy with significant annual stabilization of cost on electricity," the company says, "and will allow Jiminy Peak to project a portion of their electricity costs for 25 years into the future. Due to the significant wind resource here at Jiminy, the wind power is the most economical energy stabilization measure for the resort."

“Although the wind turbine is up and running, we're not done yet,” said Fairbank. “While this is a giant step forward to helping to preserve the environment, Jiminy Peak will continue to improve upon its energy conservation and continue to strive to take better care of the mountain ecosystem.”

[Image: The Zephyr turbine perched on Jiminy Peak]

The Zephyr project is part of the resort's ongoing Forever Green program of environmental sustainability and responsible business practices.

In the future, Fairbank plans to educate other businesses, especially other ski resorts, on how the answer to reducing their carbon footprint is literally blowing in the wind.

Jiminy Peak plans to offer tours of the wind turbine site on Sept. 21 and 28, and Oct. 19 and 21. Zephyr will also be open and staffed during the mountain's annual fall festival on Oct. 8-10.

The company has set up a website with information and images about the Zephyr wind turbine and other green efforts the ski resort has undertaken.

Let's hope other ski resorts take heed. While a massive, 1.5 MW turbine presents some difficult logistical and financing challenges, it may be the most cost effective way to generate your own wind power. However, installing smaller 10-100 kw turbines could be an easier way for ski resorts to take advantage of the high winds that howl passed their ski lifts. Imagine 10 kW wind turbines perched atop the top of each ski lift...

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