Ski resorts go renewable

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The following comes from the ESPN Action Sports website and shows what is possible with a bit of effort and vision.

Panels at McMillan Lodge, Mt Hotham, VIC

As the environmental agenda continues to slip from the concerns of most resort management bodies in Australia, it has been the snow sports community who have stepped into a leadership position, with a large number of lodges and businesses signing up for solar PV panels over the past year, especially at Mt Hotham.

The following is the introduction to the article, please check the website for the full piece.

The author is Jesse Huffman.

U.S. ski resorts tap renewable energy sources to combat climate change

As the volatility of the 2011-12 season made clear, the stake ski resort’s have in resolving climate change is a big one. Over the past three years, resorts like Bolton, Burke, Jiminy Peak and Grouse Mountain have installed wind turbines, while others have pursued efficiency updates, in an effort to responsibly produce, and reduce, the power and heat involved in swinging chairs and heating lodges all winter long. Now, four more areas, from local ski hills in the Northeast to major resorts in the Rockies, have installed or invested in renewable power sources ranging from solar to biomass to coalmine methane.

Smuggler’s Notch closed early this winter after a spring meltdown saw the highest March temperatures in Vermont’s history. The same solar energy that drove skiers and riders batty as it took away their snow is now being put to use by an array of 35 solar trackers, which collectively produce 205,000 kWh per year — around five percent of Smuggler’s total electrical use. The array provides enough juice for most of the resort’s Village Lodge.

Dan Maxon, Smuggler’s Notch Solar Installation Project Manager, toured me through the installation on a recent morning, when the GPS-enabled trackers, manufactured by a Vermont company called ALLEarth Renewables, were tilted east to catch the a.m. sun.

“We believe it is important not only for ski resorts, but for all energy users to take some responsibility for their energy consumption,” Maxon told me. “There was a good confluence of energy and desire that made this project come together — we’d been looking at various renewable projects for six-seven years, but couldn’t pull them off. This one we could.”

Aspen is often seen as being one of the greenest of the global resorts, so I have included the section of the essay that relates to them. Coal bed methane is a fiercely contested issue across many parts of the world, so Aspen’s choice of energy source is interesting:

In Colorado, Aspen Ski Company is taking a leading role in developing an innovative form of clean energy from coalmine methane. The practice of venting methane from coalmines to prevent underground explosions has turned into a climate change bottleneck with 20 times more warming potential than CO2, coalmine methane contributed ten percent of the all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, according to the EPA.

Aspen is the capital investor in a new project at Elk Creek Mine that uses waste methane to power a dynamo and generate electricity, downgrading the methane to CO2 and at the same time. The project is a first of its scale in the United States, and helped net the resort a National Ski Area Association Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence this year.

“We’ve been looking for a large scale clean energy project for over a decade and we finally found one,” says Auden Schendler, Aspen Vice President of Sustainability.

Schendler expects the 3 megawatt project to go online around September, and says that in a matter of month it will make approximately the same amount of electricity that Aspen uses annually, around 25 million kilowatt hours. “Because we’re destroying methane in the process,” adds Schendler, “this is equivalent to triple offsetting our carbon footprint each year.”

 

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