KILLINGTON — Killington Ski Resort prides itself for opening first every ski and snowboard season. Now they are priding themselves for being the first Vermont ski resort to run on Cow Power.
The K1 Express gondola was busy transporting skiers and riders to Killington Peak on Saturday. Just below the loading platform was Marie Audet, a Holstein cow named “Bella,” and four newborns from Audet’s Blue Spruce Farm of Bridport.
Blue Spruce Farm is one of 13 farms around the state generating electricity for the K1 gondola for the entire ski and snowboard season. The Cow Power went online on Nov. 5 and Audet believes there is potential for greater usage that can help sustain family farms.
It takes 300,000 kilowatts per year to operate the K1 gondola, according to David Dunn, Green Mountain Power manager of renewable projects.
Dunn has been working with the Powdr Corporation, Killington’s parent company, for years to reduce the ski area’s carbon footprint.
Cow Power is produced when microbes in cow manure break down organic material and create a by product called bio-gas. Bio-gas contains methane, which has energy value. It can be stored in a concrete tank, pond or silo at a regulated temperature.
Bio-gas goes to an engine that spins a generator, and the generator produces electricity that goes out to the grid. Killington pays a premium for the energy, and it receives carbon credits.
Killington is paying an extra four cents per kilowatt hour, Dunn said. Green Mountain Power takes the extra four cents to pay farmers for the energy that’s produced.
“It’s an investment. There’s some extra money being spent, but it diversifies dairy farms and gives farmers, like Blue Spruce Farms, another source of income. All of the money stays in Vermont,” Dunn said.
Demand for Cow Power is growing for commercial and residential use in Vermont, Dunn said. Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater, Green Mountain College in Poultney, and Killington Mountain School are all running on Cow Power. The energy source is generating a buzz, as well.
Allison Gillette of Ludlow is producing a documentary called “Cow Power: The Film” to raise awareness. The documentary will be released in January.
Sarah Thorson, Killington Ski Resort marketing coordinator, said the new base lodge scheduled to open in 2013 will also run on Cow Power. There are no plans for expanding Cow Power usage, but Thorson said there’s always a possibility.
“It’s one step at a time,” Thorson said. “(Killington) is constantly looking for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint. GMP cow power is the perfect combination because we are working with local farms and giving skiers and riders a great experience.”
To learn more about Killington’s Cow Power initiative visit www.killington/gogreen.
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