Berkshire East in Massachusetts recently commissioned a new 900 kilowatt wind turbine that produces 100% of the ski resort’s energy needs, becoming what is said to be the first in the world to produce power from an onsite renewable source. According the press release, nearly half of all skiing areas in the United States have shut-down. The decreased popularity of the sport could be a potential reason for the closure of so many resorts, but energy costs may also be a contributing factor.
Certainly the owners of Berkshire East believe rising fuel prices make the winter business difficult. Three years ago, the resort had ended a five-year fixed price energy contract, and the rise in rates was making margins too slim to continue to stay open. Brothers Jim and Jon Schaefer began exploring alternative energy sources at that time, and hired Sustainable Energy Development to find a way to cut long-term costs. Together, they decided onsite wind power was the best way to keep the ski resort open.
The installation process cost nearly $3 million and was made possible by several government incentive programs, including a $440,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. $70,000 of that grant money was used to research the site and various types of wind turbines in order to prove the sustainability of the project. A local bank also provided a loan to the ski-resort for the project, the total cost of which will take at least seven years, and most likely even more, to fully repay.
The wind powered project is also bringing some fringe social benefits to the area as well. An education station that monitors the turbine’s energy production will be installed at the local Hawlemont Elementary School, and extra renewable energy credits will be donated to the school. A $2,500 scholarship in the name of Elissa Anne Henderson has been established, and a $20,000 historic building fund has also been set up as part of the project.