Jiminy Peak Celebrates North America’s First Ski Area Wind Turbine

Hancock, MA – Although “Zephyr” first began producing electricity on the afternoon of August 3, Jiminy Peak ski resort officials, other dignitaries and the media gathered Wednesday on a Berkshire Mountain ridgeline to celebrate the debut of North America’s first ski area wind turbine.

North America's first ski area wind turbine is now producing electricity at Jiminy Peak in western Massachusetts. (photo: Jiminy Peak)

North America’s first ski area wind turbine is now producing electricity at Jiminy Peak in western Massachusetts.
(photo: Jiminy Peak)

Clean, renewable energy is now surging through Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort. Over 600 people at a mountainside dedication ceremony applauded Wednesday as three 123-foot blades began to spin when Jiminy Peak’s James P. Van Dyke, newly designated vice president of environmental sustainability, flipped the switch of the “Zephyr” wind turbine.

The dedication was the culmination of a three-year project to erect a 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbine, which at 328 feet is taller than the Statue of Liberty, allowing Jiminy Peak to become the first ski and snowboard resort in North America to make its own power.

Prior to the event, approximately 160 media, energy experts, family and friends crowded the resort’s JJ’s Lodge for a Renewable Energy Summit, moderated by Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). In an opening address, recent Mt. Greylock (Mass.) High School graduate Rachel Payne thanked the audience for its interest in renewable energy by saying, “We must recognize our profound responsibility to bring down carbon emissions.”

Kevin Schulte, vice president of consulting, Sustainable Energy Developments, Inc., Ontario, N.Y., said renewable energy isn’t the only solution to the country’s dependence on foreign oil, but “wind power is a big piece of the puzzle.” He predicted that eventually, clean, renewable wind energy facilities will be placed at more and more homes, businesses and schools.

The NSAA’s Michael Berry said that when skiers buy renewable energy credits (RECs) at ski areas such as Aspen and Vail, they are, in part, helping to subsidize projects like the Jiminy Peak wind turbine.

Brian Fairbank, president and CEO of the resort and the driving impetus behind the effort to harness the wind, said a combination of wind power and resort conservation will reduce the resort’s energy costs by 49.4 percent in 2007-08. The $3.9 million wind turbine project, which Fairbank said was “the most complex financing project of my life,” is nonetheless expected to pay for itself in seven years.

The wind turbine requires a wind speed of 6 mph to operate and can work in winds gusting up to 55 mph. During periods when the mountain doesn’t need the electricity, it will be sold back to the power company. “When the wind is howling at 2 a.m. and we’re all asleep, we’ll continue to make electricity for the grid,” said Fairbank.

“Although the wind turbine is up and running, we’re not done yet,” said Fairbank. “While this is a giant step forward to helping to preserve the environment, Jiminy Peak will continue to improve upon its energy conservation and continue to strive to take better care of the mountain ecosystem.”

The Zephyr project is part of the resort’s ongoing Forever Green program of environmental sustainability and responsible business practices.

In the future, Fairbank plans to educate other businesses, especially other ski resorts, on how the answer to reducing their carbon footprint is literally blowing in the wind.

Jiminy Peak plans to offer tours of the wind turbine site for the general public on Sept. 21 and 28, and Oct. 19 and 21. Zephyr will also be open and staffed during the mountain’s annual fall festival on Oct. 8-10.

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