KILLINGTON – On Friday, Jan. 30, Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office and other EPA representatives, toured Killington Resort to see some of the best practices in the ski industry at work. Congressional representatives from Leahy’s, Sanders’ and Welch’s office also attended, as did David Dunn of Green Mountain Power and Eugene and Marie Audet of Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, key partners in the resort’s environmental programs.
“We are thrilled to host Mr. Spalding and greatly appreciate the recognition of our sustainability efforts. We strive to improve the efficiency of our resort operations each year and I’m proud of the steps we have taken to this point,” said Michael Solimano, president and general manager at Killington Resort and Pico Mountain, in a statement prior to Spalding’s arrival.
EPA has launched an initiative focused on how to reduce environmental impacts at large, energy intensive sports facilities like ski resorts and stadiums. Killington Resort was named Vermont’s Overall Greenest Resort in 2014 by Ski Vermont, for Environmental Excellence. The resort also received the National Ski Area Association Golden Eagle Award in 2013 in recognition of its ongoing dedication to the environment with the Cow Power Program. Additionally, Powdr Corp., Killington’s parent company, has received national recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency for its green power purchasing. Since 2008, Killington has offset most of its electricity use through the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), while Powdr Corp. as a whole offsets more than 100 percent through REC. Killington’s commitment of RECs is the largest of any resort in the East, as it has purchased over 107 million kilowatt hours of RECs, which has eliminated more the 66,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions – an amount equal to the emissions produced by 7,466 average homes.
“It is great to see one of New England’s biggest ski resorts invest in green and energy efficient operations,” said Spalding. “Climate change is a challenge for the winter sports industry, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy footprints at big operations like Killington are a big step in the right direction.”
Jeff Temple, director of operations at Killington Resort and Pico Mountain, explained to the group gathered in the Peak Lodge Friday that the resort’s decision to pursue environmental upgrades was aided significantly by state grants and programs to help offset the cost. This has also helped the resort’s bottom line. He complimented the Vermont congressional delegation for their support and state legislators for creating win-win incentives to achieve environmental objectives while encouraging growth and cutting-edge improvements that will help Killington Resort invest in a strong future.
“The state has been a good partner… we really appreciate how they’ve worked with us,” Temple said.
Killington powers its K1 Gondola and the Peak Restaurant with purchases of electricity generated by BioGas, commonly known as Cow Power. Killington purchases over a million kilowatt hours of energy through Green Mountain Power’s Cow Power program. That energy is equivalent to nearly 170 homes’ total electricity usage.
The statewide Cow Power program is supported by 13 local dairy farms with a total of nearly 13,000 cows contributing to this renewable energy source in Vermont. Cow Power replaces energy generated elsewhere in Vermont and New England, with the added benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
“Killington’s investment in Cow Power makes a direct investment in renewable generation on a Vermont dairy farm, which produce greenhouse gas reductions from manure storage, reduce odors at the farm, and the process can help farms reduce nutrient runoff,” said David Dunn of Green Mountain Power.
Joining the EPA tour on Friday were Eugene and Marie Audet, co-owners of Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport. Blue Spruce was the first Cow Power farm in Vermont. The process works like this: waste from their 1,500 cows is collected and pumped into a biodigester, which looks like a concrete in-ground swimming pool with a concrete cover. The digester, which is kept at the same temperature as a cow, simply continues what was happening in the cows’ stomachs, Eugene Audet explained.
“The digester is about 16 feet deep and it’s filled up to 14 feet with manure, allowing the naturally occurring methane gasses to collect at the top,” Audet continued. That methane gas is used to power generators that push enough electricity onto the grid.
Additionally, the digester creates a closed-loop recycling system right on the farm.
“The manure that comes out of the digester is even more valuable than when it came in!” the Audets exclaim on the Blue Spruce Farm website. This is because the manure out of the digester goes through a mechanical separator that squeezes the liquid out of the undigested plant fibers. The plant fibers (having been cooked in the digester at 100 degrees for 21 days) are the consistency of peat moss, and can then be reused as bedding for their cows. The remaining liquid is used as fertilizer for the fields.
“This entire process, affectionately called ‘Cow Power,’ allows us to be better neighbors by reducing farm odor, reducing our carbon footprint, removing methane emissions from the air, and generating electricity for our fellow Vermonters,” Audet summarized.
Other green initiatives
Some of the other green operations featured at Killington include snow making upgrades, greywater recycling, electric car charging stations and Freeaire refrigeration.
Killington has invested in 400 energy efficient snow guns in the past year, with the help of an Efficiency Vermont buy-back rebate program. Temple says the resort expects to see a return on this investment in a year and a half. In total, 2,400 energy efficient snow guns were purchased statewide through the Efficiency Vermont grant.
The source of snowmaking water at Killington is primarily from Woodward Reservoir, which has allowed the flow of local streams to be maintained, insuring protection for aquatic species while at the same time providing snowmaking water to support future growth without impacts to natural resources. In addition, the cold water pulled from the depths of the Reservoir reduces energy for cooling prior to pumping water through the snowmaking system. The resort pulls about 600 million gallons of water from the reservoir each year, Temple said, and at peak operation, the resort uses 82 gallons of water per minute for snowmaking.
Since 1987, Killington has used greywater in bathrooms on the mountain. Greywater is nearly-potable water that can be recycled onsite for toilet flushing. This practices saves up to 35,000 gallons of fresh water a day during peak usage and will be expanded in the future, the resort reports.
Killington has also installed two electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the Killington Grand Resort Hotel. They are open to all guests, not just hotel guests.
Beginning in 2007, Killington Resort has converted 12 walk-in coolers to Freeaire refrigeration. Freeaire, a Vermont-based company, uses the cold, outside air to refrigerate coolers instead of high energy compressors.
For more information on EPA’s Green Sports initiative visit www2.epa.gov/green-sports. For more information on Killington’s environmental programs visit www.killington.com/site/culture/environment/green_initiatives.
By Polly Lynn
Photo by Jerry LeBlond