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Biomass plant is ‘beautifully simple’

Brian Sipes/Special to the Daily\A contingent from the Vail Valley recently visited Lech, Austria, Beaver Creek's sister resort.
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VAIL ” Vail could learn a thing or two from the Austrian ski resort of Lech, Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said.

Zemler recently spent a week in Lech, Beaver Creek’s sister resort, with a contingent from the Vail Valley. He toured Lech’s biomass plant, which heats about 90 percent of the town with energy created by burning wood.

“Somewhere along the way here in Eagle County, there’s got to be a place for a biomass plant,” Zemler said.



Zemler said he was impressed by the operation of the plant.

“The biofuel plant is beautifully simple,” he said.

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The plant has one full-time employee and two part-time employees, he said. The employees dump wood chips into a furnace. Then, heat is sent from the plant into the town via water, where it heats buildings.

Talk of a biomass plant for Vail has increased in recent months, especially in light of dying pine-beetle-invested trees in surrounding forests. Some say the dead trees have created the potential for a fire that could destroy homes and other buildings in Vail.

A town official from Lech gave a presentation on its biomass plant to Vail Town Council last fall. And Summit County is proposing a project to heat several government buildings in Frisco with energy from wood and other forest debris.



Vail also should strive to emphasize customer service the same way Lech does, Zemler said.

“Wherever you were, it was clear that customer service is exemplary,” he said.

Lech also has activities for people who don’t want to ski ” such as ice skating and tobogganing ” and all the activities are in the village, rather than on the mountain, like Vail Mountain’s Adventure Ridge, Zemler said.

“There was more of that type of different opportunity,” he said.

Other members of the group were Avon Town Councilman Brian Sipes and Beaver Creek Director of Community Relations Ludwig Kurz, who is a former Vail mayor.

Sipes said he was impressed with the efficiency of the engineering. He said it has the potential to work well in Eagle County, especially in a place like Vail Village or Lionshead where buildings are close to each other.

“There’s no question it would work,” he said. “The technology is proven.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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