Vail Resorts goes 100 percent wind power
DENVER ” For Vail Resorts, the future is blowing in the wind.
The resort company announced Tuesday that it will buy enough wind power to offset 100 percent of its electricity use, making it the second-largest corporate purchaser of wind power in the U.S. The effort includes the electricity used at its five ski resorts ” Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly ” as well as at its stores, hotels and corporate office.
“Why are we doing this?” said Rob Katz, Vail Resorts chief executive officer. “For starters, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Katz said the company wants to reinforce its commitment to the environment in which it operates its resorts. Diversifying the company’s energy sources also makes good business sense, he said. And, the initiative appeals to guests who want to be environmentally friendly, he said.
“We want to be a leader in the industry in the effort,” Katz said.
The company will buy 152,000 megawatt hours of wind energy credits per year through Boulder-based broker Renewable Choice Energy. The purchase will eliminate over 211 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the road, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The announcement came Tuesday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science at a news conference with Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, who represents Eagle County.
“Vail Resorts is on the front line in the battle for accountable energy,” Owens said.
Owens said if more corporations and individuals buy wind power credits, prices will continue to fall, spurring even more interest in wind power.
Udall said he hopes wind purchases like Vail Resorts’ will harness the potential of eastern Colorado wind farms.
“Vail understands that we are too dependent in our country on fossil fuels,” Udall said.
The initiative takes effect immediately. Katz didn’t say how much the use of wind power credits will cost the company.
“This is more about choice than it is about cost,” he said.
Kelly Ladyga, spokeswoman for the company, said the agreement with Renewable Choice Energy is a multi-year deal, and that Vail Resorts is committed to wind power “for the long term.”
The company won’t actually have wind turbines on its ski mountains. Vail Resorts buys renewable energy credits from wind farmers across the country through Renewable Choice Energy. The credits ensure that, when Vail Resorts uses electricity, the energy that’s put back into the power grid is produced by wind.
Vail Resorts also announced a promotion that will give one lift ticket to anyone who purchases wind power for their home for a year with Renewable Choice Energy. The surcharge is as little as $5 per family, said Quayle Hodek, Renewable Choice Energy CEO.
“This is a trend we want to foster,” Katz said.
Boulder resident Katz took over as Vail CEO in February. He said the initiative is “very consistent” with his personal beliefs, but it was actually Bill Jensen, Vail Mountain chief, who came up with the idea for the 100 percent wind-power initiative.
Jill Cooper, director of sustainability programs for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental, said Vail Resorts’ decision will drive the market to build more wind turbines.
“It’s huge that Vail is taking this leadership step,” she said.
In January, Texas-based Whole Foods Markets made the largest-ever purchase of wind energy credits, 463,000 megawatt hours per year. That purchase was also made through Renewable Choice Energy.
Vail was already using wind power credits to offset electricity used by Chair 3 and the Eagle’s Nest building. Vail and Beaver Creek were buying 35,000 kilowatt hours in credits per month during the ski season, Vail Mountain spokeswoman Jen Brown said.
The town of Vail is also apparently close to signing a deal with Renewable Choice Energy to offset all of its electricity use with wind power. On Tuesday, Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said an agreement is imminent between the town and the Boulder company.
Wind power is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. Last year, wind power production increased 40.5 percent worldwide, the council said. The price of producing wind power has fallen by over 80 percent since 1980, the American Wind Energy Association said.
In a statement released Tuesday night, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also praised the company.
“From the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Nevadas, businesses like yours have flourished thanks to the beauty and splendor of our country’s rugged mountain settings,” Schwarzenegger said. “It is gratifying to see your company investing in renewable energy sources to reinforce its pledge to the natural environment in which it operates and thrives.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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