Ski resorts toeing green's bottom line

In the rugged Sierra Nevada range, the Kirkwood ski resort near Lake Tahoe is looking at installing 20 turbines, he said.

"Prior to this, they were buying renewable energy credits, basically they were paying a premium ... so the next step only made sense that they would have a wind turbine on their property generating electricity," Hawks said.

It is easier said than done.

First, the question of funding.

Jiminy Peak originally planned to spend $1.8 million on a smaller turbine. Fairbank said suppliers declined to bid for a single turbine until the energy unit of General Electric Co. agreed to provide the 1.5 megawatt unit, which doubled costs to $3.9 million.

The project was funded through a complicated combination of bank loans, a state grant and renewable energy credits sold to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and Community Energy Inc., a Radnor, Pa. wind farm developer and marketer of such credits. Renewable energy credits are typically bought by businesses and utilities trying to offset greenhouse-gas emissions and others looking to support alternative energy.

Jiminy Peak now expects to earn more than $200,000 a year by selling power through the National Grid utility and producing tax credits.

Money secured, there was a big question of logistics.

About 500 tons of parts and equipment had to be transported along a two-mile, 26-percent-grade road up the mountain, including 123-foot-long blades.

Engineers were forced to use a ski trail to get parts and equipment to the desired spot. The frame of the trailer originally intended to haul equipment up the mountain bent under the stress on the first attempt, forcing Jiminy Peak to build a custom flatbed trailer. Four bulldozers supplied additional power and traction.

Once installed on the mountain's western shoulder, the turbine quickly became part of the landscape in this small town in the Berkshires.

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