VAIL " The town of Vail will likely sign an agreement this week to offset 100 percent of its electricity use with wind power credits, Town Manager Stan Zemler said.
The agreement follows Vail Resorts' announcement last week that it will buy wind credits equal to all of its electricity use at its five ski resorts, retail shops, hotels and other properties.
The town's initiative would offset 20 million kilowatt hours of electricity use over three years, Zemler said. Over three years, the credits will take 28 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2,600 cars off the road or planting 3,700 acres of trees.
The deal will cost the town about $12,000 per year in addition to its current electricity bill, Zemler said. It will have to be renewed each year, but the initiative is long-term commitment from the town, Zemler said.
Other cities around the country are already using wind power. According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site, the city of Boston buys 17.3 million kilowatt hours per year " or 9 percent of its total electricity " in wind energy, making it the largest municipal buyer of wind energy. The city of Portland, Ore., buys 17.6 million kilowatt hours per year in biogas, small-hydro power, solar power and wind energy.
Vail Resorts will buy 152,000 megawatt hours of wind energy credits per year. Councilman Mark Gordon said he encouraged the Vail's council to make the decision.
"We're going to continue along in this direction," Gordon said. "We're going to start taking our environmental stewardship very seriously as a council."
The town will sign the agreement with Renewable Choice Energy, the same Boulder-based broker that Vail Resorts used in its wind credit purchase, Zemler said.
The town will still pay its bill to the electric company, but, in addition, will buy credits from wind farmers through Renewable Choice Energy. The energy used by Vail will be replaced on the grid with wind power.
Gordon said the wind power initiative is a way for Vail to act locally to help solve a national problem.
"Right now we have a government that ... does nothing, so we the people of this country have to take matters into its own hands," he said.
Buying wind power supports broader use of renewable energy and decreases the country's dependence on foreign oil, Gordon said.
Many say that fossil fuel emissions contribute to global warming, and recent studies have said that skiing's future is threatened by global climate change. "We want to maintain our ski resort status," Gordon said.
Sloan Shoemaker of the Aspen-based Wilderness Workshop said Vail's decision will help spur more interest in wind energy.
"We'll be moving along this trajectory toward sustainability sooner, and I applaud the town of Vail wholeheartedly," he said.
Matt Scherr, director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, said the decision helps Vail stay competitive with other resorts.
"Much of what we do is under a microscope because we have so many visitors," he said. "We have an opportunity to show what our commitment is."
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.