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Innovation

Snowbird Ski Resort Revamps With High-Efficiency Power System

Snowbird

One of the biggest ski destinations in the west is making some major sustainability upgrades. Snowbird, a resort operating in Utah for 50 years, announced a partnership with Wheeler Power Systems to make significant improvements to their power grid. Wheeler will implement changes that modernize the system in terms of energy efficiency and should even allow the resort to become near 100 percent self-sustainable. 

The Wheeler system works as a cogeneration facility. Also known as a ‘combined heat and power’ (CHP) system, the facility generates heat at the same time as it generates electricity for other uses throughout the resort.

What sets these types of systems apart from traditional generators is far greater efficiency – because much of the energy is recycled, power efficiency is increased by 50 – 70 percent on average. In fact, this new system’s technology from Caterpillar has energy efficiency that is around 90 percent on average. The new system has all the bells and whistles including high-efficiency boilers, new switchgear, fresh heat exchangers and pumps, updated electronic controls, and control valves. 

Image courtesy of Snowbird

This is the first significant upgrade to the mountain’s power system since 1986. While efficiency improvements are probably needed in any system that has been around for 35 years, the previous generation facility had an impressive level of longevity that is emblematic of Snowbird’s greater commitment to sustainability. In true Snowbird fashion, the 1986 system operated for a total of 280,000 hours, which far surpasses the 120,000-hour estimate that it was given upon installation. Bryan Campbell, president of Wheeler, who installed both the old system – and now the new one, saw the current design as the next step for a resort recognized among the most sustainable in the country. “This major infrastructure upgrade further enhances Snowbird’s reputation as a leader in environmental stewardship,” said Campbell in a statement. 

Snowbird’s new system is just one of many marks that indicate a long and tenured dedication to ensuring sustainability in its business operations.

Along with more than 30 ski resort companies, Snowbird is a corporate partner of Protect Our Winters (POW). The organization represents the $887 billion outdoor and snowsports industry and works with lawmakers at the federal and state level to reduce the effects of global warming and the subsequent lack of snow that will result from significant climate change.

Recently, POW brought along a handful of winter sports gold medalists to meet with a group of 28 U.S. Senators and Representatives about the industry-wide vulnerabilities to climate change and the economic effect on mountainside communities. 

Image courtesy of Jason Blackeye

On a state level, Snowbird has a partnership with Breathe Utah, a group focused on addressing air quality issues within the state through an education-based community outreach approach. Breathe Utah teaches state residents about specific legislative obstacles to improving air quality as well as immediate action items that can help put pressure on those roadblocks. 

The resort has made countless other partnerships with various non-profit organizations including Path to Positive Utah, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, CLIF Greennotes, and the University of Utah. These groups look to confront a number of sustainability objectives like conservation, invasive weed extermination, and trail erosion prevention.

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