The calendar said April 5, but the thermometer read 27 degrees at the summit of Jiminy Peak. The wind was howling between 14 and 16 miles per hour sustained, and it was gusting to something greater than 30. The cloud cover was thick with intermittent snow squalls. It was the perfect day. For a windmill.
Yes, there were the blades of the “Zephyr” spinning in all their glory. The windmill, which will turn 2 in August, was installed in time for last season as Jiminy’s answer to the going-green movement — and to save money.
“You should have seen it Saturday,” said Jiminy public relations director Katie Fogel on Sunday, referring to an even windier day 24 hours earlier. “It’s going pretty fast today, too. It’s what we like to see.”
The blades on the “Zephyr,” named in a customer contest, measure 123 feet and the tower stands 253 feet high, taller than the Statue of Liberty. The 1.5-megawatt turbine sits adjacent to Jiminy’s West Way trail on a ridge just below the summit.
Installing it was the culmination of a three-year project with Connecticut-based General Electric, and it made Jiminy the first mountain resort in North America to make its own power.
Jiminy president Brian Fairbank initially said a combination of wind power and conservation initiatives would reduce the resort’s energy costs by 49.4 percent in the 2007-08 season. He said he expects the $3.9 million wind turbine to begin paying for itself in six years.
“We’ve been pretty much at our goal,” Fogel said this week. She said the windmill has saved $200,000 so far this season.
The turbine requires a wind speed of 6 mph to operate and can work in winds gusting up to 55 mph. Fogel said it can generate enough power to supply Jiminy with half of what it needs.
During periods when the mountain doesn’t need the electricity, it will be sold back to regional power suppliers. Fairbank has said in addition to making an environmental statement, Jiminy can keep the price of lift tickets down.
So far this year, the windmill has generated 7.8 million kWh. That’s a lot, considering a 6-watt bulb can run for 10 hours a day and use .6 kWh. A 500-watt security light can run for eight hours and use 4 kWh. According to U.S. Department of Energy statistics, the average home uses 29 kwh per day. “We feel good about that” Fogel said about how much power has been generated.
Jiminy should. It’s going green — and saving green.