Okemo owners to switch to 'green' energy
LUDLOW— When it comes to addressing the worldwide problem of greenhouse gas emissions, Okemo Mountain Resort Owner Tim Mueller said, you've got to start somewhere.
That's why Mueller and wife, Diane, are purchasing enough renewable energy certificates from Sterling Planet, a retail renewable energy provider, to power all the electrical needs of their three ski resorts, which include Okemo, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire.
"It's the New York Cities, not the Ludlows and Crested Buttes, that are the real problem. What we can do is small," he said. "It's about setting examples, rather than making an impact."
By purchasing power from the national grid using the certificates, the Muellers are investing in the renewable energy sources provided by Sterling Power.
Sterling Power provides energy through a variety of sources, including solar, wind and methane gas.
The Muellers requested certificates for wind power. Tim Mueller said it is easy to invest in wind power because so much of it is available. He supports its use as a source of energy.
Vermont needs to look more closely at possible locations for wind farms, he said. Though aesthetics is a concern at some locations, he said, if something isn't done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the alternative will look even worse.
"Everyone wants to be green, but as soon as someone proposes something it gets shot down," he said.
Mueller said he and his wife chose to purchase certificates, rather than build their own turbines, because "there are people that do that a lot better than we could."
The Muellers will purchase 27 million kilowatt hours of Sterling Planet's renewable energy certificates through a contract they signed with Gunnison County Electric Association, a member-owned, nonprofit cooperative located in Colorado.
Mueller said snowmaking demands the most amount of energy. The lodges are heated with oil and propane in the eastern resorts and with natural gas in Colorado.
He said Okemo Mountain uses the most amount of energy because it is larger than the other resorts.
Though Mueller would not disclose how much money the three resorts are spending on the certificates, he said it is roughly 15 percent more than what they were spending on electricity previously.
Public Relations Director Bonnie MacPherson said the volume of renewable energy the Muellers will be using will prevent an estimated 18,800 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
Recent surveys of resort guests have indicated a growing sensitivity to environmental issues, she said. "People want to spend their money where renewable energy is supported," she said.
Some of the money the Muellers are spending on energy certificates for Crested Butte will be used to help develop wind power in Colorado through a collaboration between the Colorado Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation and Sterling Planet. Mueller said there are no such collaborative programs exist in Vermont because there are so few sources of wind energy in the state.
Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, said Okemo is the only resort in Vermont hat uses its own funds to purchase energy certificates.
Because of erratic weather patterns in the past few seasons, which have been linked to global warming caused by greenhouse gases, resorts are starting to take more seriously the consequences of relying on conventional energy, Riehle said.
"It's whatever we can do to help," he said.
Riehle said it is too early to tell which options for supporting renewable energy will prove most attractive to resorts. "The biggest hurdle is the expense," he said.
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