Vail mulls windmills on the slopes | VailDaily.com
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Vail mulls windmills on the slopes

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail Resorts, which already claims to be “100 percent powered by wind,” is ramping up efforts to turn the wind ” and sun ” into energy.

The company has asked for permission to install two wind turbines and dozens of solar panels this summer at Eagle’s Nest at the top of the gondola on Vail Mountain.

Each of the small turbines would be up to 30 feet tall and create about 1 kilowatt of energy per hour, said Luke Cartin, environmental coordinator for Vail Mountain. That’s much smaller than turbines at wind farms, which can be 200 to 300 feet tall.

The Forest Service, which owns Vail Mountain and leases it to Vail Resorts, is considering the turbine and solar proposals. Cartin said the company is investigating the windmill project, and there’s no certainty that it will happen.

The company hopes to later put windmills at Ever Vail, the “green” ski village planned for West Lionshead.

“We’re getting to the point now where we’re trying to branch out and try some interesting things,” Cartin said.

A small windmill similar to the kind Vail is considering could cost from $3,000 to $5,000, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The system could pay for itself in energy savings in six to 30 years, according to the association.

Matt Scherr, director of the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability, said environmental stewardship seems to be becoming part of the “culture” at Vail Resorts.

“They’re really doing some impressive things,” Scherr said.

And, importantly, the company is communicating green ideas ” such as using renewable energy ” to its customers, who might then adopt their own green practices, Scherr said.

Vail Resorts already buys 152,000 megawatt hours each year in wind-energy credits, offsetting all of the electricity it uses at its ski resorts, hotels and stores. The credits are voluntary premiums on electricity costs that allow more wind energy to be produced.

The company dropped plans for a much bigger wind turbine over concerns that it would be unsightly, harmful to wildlife and unable to stand up the elements, Cartin said.

Jiminy Peak, a ski resort in Massachusetts, recently installed a 253-foot-tall, $3.9 million wind turbine that generates 4.6 million kilowatt hours of energy each year.

About a quarter of visitors surveyed at Jiminy said the turbine was part of the reason they came to the mountain, said Katie Fogel, spokeswoman for the resort.

“It’s definitely been well received,” Fogel said.

Vail Mountain is also planning to put solar panels on the Bailey’s building ” which contains Adventure Ridge and ski school offices and a cafe ” at Eagle’s Nest this summer. The panels could produce as much as 8.4 kilowatts per hour, powering several buildings at Eagle’s Nest, Cartin said. At certain times of the year, the system could put energy into the “power grid” that everyone uses, Cartin said.

In addition, Vail is planning to put solar panels on its gondola cars this summer, which would power the lights and the fans inside.

“That’s going to be a world-first type of thing,” Cartin said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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