HANCOCK, Massachusetts — This summer, when the switch is flipped and a $3.9 million GE wind turbine is activated on a 2,000-ft. high mountainside, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, Mass., will make ski industry history. Just as the first snowmaking machine revolutionized the sport of skiing, expectations are high that wind energy will eventually be embraced by ski areas nationwide. And why not? Using the wind to generate energy – an ancient idea given a 21st century facelift – taps a renewable resource, reduces carbon emissions, and helps maintain lift ticket and other operational costs. It’s low cost emission free energy, produced using the wind that blows over the mountain on a daily basis.
Now that the resort has received all environmental, zoning, and legal permits – even the turbine’s impact on wetlands, rare and endangered species (there were none) and birds were considered – plans are underway for a mid-August dedication ceremony. According to Jiminy Peak president and CEO Brian Fairbank, who is spearheading the three-year effort, the resort will become the first North American ski area to use the wind to power chairlifts, base lodges and especially energy-intensive snowmaking machinery.
The various components of the wind turbine will begin converging on the resort starting in June for assembly on the western side of the mountain, 350 feet below the summit – a location chosen for its unobstructed 40-mile view into Central New York. Once in place, Jiminy’s wind turbine will generate 1.5 million kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy – about 33 percent of the total electricity consumption of the resort or enough to light up the TVs, DVDs, microwaves and refrigerators in 400 homes for a year.
Building a wind turbine is like constructing a giant five-piece Erector Set. The three 122-ft. blades have already arrived at the Port of Albany from Brazil. From there, the trio of blades will be trucked in a carefully choreographed effort across routes 22 and 43 to the resort. A route map and schedule will be posted to www.jiminypeak.com for people to watch as it goes by. The blades are as long as a 12-story building is high and GE’s patented adjusting blade technology enables them to catch every breath of air in order to maximize the output of electricity.
One smaller crane is being assembled at the resort to construct one massive 420-ft. crane that will lift the blades, the three-piece 253-ft. tower, and the nacelle (generator housing) into place on a few calm, windless days in July. Helicopters are often used to put lift towers in place, but at 50 tons the nacelle alone is about as heavy as a loaded cement truck and is too massive for anything but a crane.
Jiminy will create an interactive Sustainable Energy Education Center at the base of the resort and publish an educational magazine for the general public to learn more about wind-generated energy and conservation efforts.
By using the wind turbine, and introducing other energy conservation efforts at the resort, Jiminy expects to reduce its energy dependence by almost 50 percent on the first day the turbine is turned on. The wind turbine is expected to pay for itself within seven years, something Jiminy’s Brian Fairbank hopes to take to the bank.
“There was no ‘road map’ that private businesses could follow to generate their own wind energy. We learned as we went along, knowing that it was the right thing to do to reduce spiraling energy costs while making our little corner of Western Massachusetts a bit greener,” said Jiminy’s Brian Fairbank.
“By 2010, when we’ve fully documented the benefits of wind energy, we hope more ski areas will think globally and act locally by considering the cost savings that are literally blowing in the wind.”
Fairbank continues, “We intend to prove that using a renewable resource like this will be an option for any energy intensive business looking to reduce their impact on global warming.”
For more information about the wind turbine, the route map for the blade delivery, and the dedication ceremony schedule, visit www.jiminypeak.com.