Text & photos by Dick Butler
Forward Thinking / Think Wind Turbine

September 12, 2007

We don’t think of leisure resorts as visionary places, but ski resorts all over the world are planning for the future, acting “green”, and addressing the increasing high cost of energy head-on. These issues are being accomplished in most cases not because of government mandates, but as a response to environmental awareness, dramatic increases in the cost of energy [in an energy intensive industry], and a strong desire to remain in business. A stellar achiever in this arena is Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in the northern Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, near Hancock.

Jiminy has a long standing reputation as a year round destination resort of modest proportions that includes a successful night skiing program, due in part to its close proximity to the Capital Region of nearby New York State. The surrounding Berkshires will enhance a stay here by offering a multitude of cultural and sporting venues.

Jiminy is known for being the largest ski and snowboard resort in Southern New England and for its efforts to become a true year round resort. Unique features here include a high-speed six-passenger chairlift, three terrain parks, half pipe, forty-four trails, a Mountain Adventure Park featuring a mountain coaster, outdoor heated swimming pool, indoor and outdoor whirlpools, and a hotel and conference center.

Jiminy established itself as a leader in energy conservation and resource management as far back as the mid-eighties. It started with the recycling of paper, metal and cardboard, reuse of motor oil for heating purposes, control of storm water, and preservation of trout habitat [construction of the Kinderhook Reservoir protects trout eggs].

Today it continues such forward thinking through the implementation of mundane, but necessary measures and products, such as ozone water treatment for laundry operations, more efficient inside and outside lighting including slope lighting, programmable thermostats, use of waste heat from compressors, waterless urinals, utilization of gravity to distribute water for snowmaking, and use of diesel fuel in their grooming fleet.

Most critical to the success of this popular resort is Brian Fairbank, Jiminy’s President and CEO since 1974. He has been a proven leader and innovator in all aspects of the mountain resort industry. At a recent Renewable Energy Summit, Brian’s son Tyler jokingly, and in fond admiration, told stories of his father’s “crazy ideas” and his “never give up – never give in” approach to life.

Turbine on dedication day

Brian’s single most important contribution may prove to be his most recent; the planning, design and construction of a 378-foot tall wind turbine, recently named Zephyr. Sited 350 feet below the mountain’s summit, it sweeps an area equivalent in size to a football field, while its tips rotate at 200 miles per hour. Dedicated on August 15th of this year, the 1.5-megawatt General Electric turbine is expected to supply one third of the resort’s annual electrical demand. Built at a cost exceeding $3.9 million dollars and paid for by a loan from a local bank and a Massachusetts Technological Collaborative Grant of $582,000, the project is expected to have a payback within an amazing seven years.

This graceful behemoth sits facing winds that gather speed over unobstructed terrain starting 40 miles due west. This is the first North American mountain resort to use wind to power area operations and to connect to the power grid. Zephyr, plus other energy improvements initiated resort-wide, are expected to reduce Jiminy’s energy dependence by nearly 50%. Over 6,000 similar wind turbines are now in operation worldwide.

The turbine project is testimony to Brian’s capabilities. Over three years in the planning, including financial feasibility, satisfaction of GE’s site requirements, wind analysis, numerous environmental and engineering studies that involved wetland investigation, rare and endangered species studies, visual impact analysis, an avian [bird] study, and the civil engineering necessary to determine that an access road was feasible, all give a lay person a sense of the complicated and convoluted processes necessary to achieve a viable solution and ultimately construction permits. “This is the most complicated project that I have ever worked on” Brian says.

Add to Jiminy’s normal operations, the task of acting as its own construction manager for the site preparation and turbine installation and one begins to believe Brian. Thanks to Jiminy’s own Project Manager, Jim VanDyke, along with Ciambro Construction, the crane and turbine erector, and of course Brian’s constant involvement, this forward thinking project has been brought to fruition.Turbine on dedication day

Chief among the requirements that allowed for a solution at Jiminy Peak were favorable wind studies, no adverse environmental impacts, the ability to connect to National Grid’s power distribution system, and the ability to build an access road to construct and service the turbine components.

It has been Brian’s persistence and energy that has made this particular project happen. According to Jiminy staff, there were several times during the Project’s gestation that it appeared that there were just too many hurdles to jump and it would have been too easy to quit. Not for Brian. There were a few roadblocks along the way, including assessment of the on-site electrical distribution upgrades necessary to utilize the turbine’s electricity and their resultant costs, no initial bidders willing to build just one turbine, and a re-evaluation of the initial wind study. When GE finally agreed to supply one single turbine, delivery was delayed one season due to backlogged orders.

Jiminy may well be setting the standard for others to follow. With a compact, efficient site plan, a variety of popular activities for its clients, all within a beautiful setting, incorporating many energy saving systems, its forward thinking and action may well be the solution that helps sustain winter-sports though the next few generations.

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