If you’ve ever skied at Jiminy Peak, then you’ve probably caught sight of Zephyr, the 1.5-megawatt wind turbine on west side of the mountain. The 386-ft tall structure generates about 4,600,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, eliminating 7,100,000 pounds of CO2 emissions produced from conventional fossil fuel electricity. The wind energy meets about one-third of Jiminy’s annual electrical demand, but during the winter when wind is strongest, it provides up to half of the ski resort’s electricity.
The Zephyr turbine was installed in the summer of 2007 and cost about $4 million. Jiminy received a $582,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative that went towards the design and purchase of the turbine. Federal tax rebates and Renewable Energy Credits also helped offset the costs. The expected payback time was 7-8 years, and the turbine is currently in its sixth year of operation, so in another year or two the energy savings from the turbine will have equaled the initial cost.
The opportunity for Jiminy to save on its electric bill was actually the primary incentive for pursuing this wind project. According to Jim Van Dyke, Jiminy’s Vice President of Sustainability, the resort’s electrical costs went up by 50 percent during the early 2000s, so they started looking into alternative energy options as a cost-cutting measure. “The goal was to reduce our operating costs,” said Mr. Van Dyke.
Any additional energy the turbine produces that is not used by Jiminy gets puts towards credits to help pay its electricity bill. There is also evidence suggesting that Zephyr has a positive impact on Jiminy’s customer base. According to Mr. Van Dyke, results from a resort survey indicated that 23 percent of respondents answered “yes” to the question of whether or not the wind turbine had some impact on your decision to come to Jiminy.
The wind turbine “has been a home run for Jiminy in many ways,” said Mr. Van Dyke, with “benefits on our checkbook, benefits on the environment, and benefits on our guests.” Jiminy was awarded the Golden Eagle Award in 2008 from Clif Bar and the National Ski Areas Association for Overall Environmental Excellence with the wind turbine.
Jiminy holds the distinction of being the first ski resort in North America to install a wind turbine, and now others are following suit. Berkshire East, located in Charlemont, MA now has a 900 kilowatt-hour wind turbine that provides 100 percent of the ski area’s annual electrical need. With this wind turbine, Berkshire East has become the first ski area in the country to produce 100 percent of its electricity from an on-site renewable energy source. The $3 million, 277-ft tall turbine generates about 2.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. According to the Berkshire East website, equivalent savings in greenhouse gas emissions would require burning 94,372 fewer gallons of fuel oil per winter, driving 2,338,400 fewer miles per year, or planting 85,356 trees a year.
While wind power may not be the perfect solution to the energy crisis, for ski areas like Jiminy Peak and Berkshire East it definitely has its benefits in terms of reducing both electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions.