Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune
By 2010, the wind that blows across Kirkwood Mountain Resort's alpine ridges could be turned into more than a stinging inconvenience to hiking skiers and snowboarders.
Officials at the resort recently announced signing a letter of intent with Reno-based Synergy Power Corporation to install 20 wind turbines at Kirkwood. The 20 turbines could provide 6,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity daily to the resort - 20 percent of the resort's demand for commercial and residential operations, Kirkwood Senior Executive David Likins said in a news statement.
"We've had countless number of firms contact us about providing wind energy, but none of them had a low profile technology that could handle the tremendous winds and snow accumulation that we see here in Kirkwood," Likins said. "Synergy, which approached us at the recommendation of Sierra Pacific Power, has a very unique technology and turbine design that might work in this environment."
Synergy's design allows a wind turbine's rotors to pivot forward with increasing wind. The design is more efficient than fixed-rotor turbines during periods of low wind speed, said Synergy Executive Vice President Greg Jones.
The wind turbines proposed for Kirkwood likely will be mounted on approximately 100-foot-tall towers and will have rotor blades about 23 feet long, Jones said.
Officials are looking at an area above Kirkwood's Red Cliffs - east of Chair 2 - as a potential location for the turbines, but the details of the proposal have yet to be formalized, said Kirkwood spokesman Daniel Pisterosi.
"There are still significant complications, not the least of which is identifying suitable locations for the turbines and integrating them into the local grid, but we are encouraged with progress to date," Likins said in the statement.
A formal proposal regarding the wind-power installation may be presented to the U.S. Forest Service before the end of this summer, and an environmental review process will follow, said Doug Barber, district ranger with the Amador Ranger District of Eldorado National Forest.
The process will include public review and comment.
Initial discussions between Kirkwood and the Forest Service on the possible wind-turbine construction appear positive.
"If we can find a place where we can put them where there is not a visibility issue and such, we're supportive," Barber said.
Barring complications, the turbines could be installed before the 2009-10 ski season, Pisterosi said. Kirkwood is among the first North American ski resorts to pursue construction of on-site turbines to provide power.
In August, Massachusetts' Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort became the first ski resort in North America to operate its own wind turbine.
The Aspen Skiing Co., in conjunction with the Forest Service, also is examining the feasibility of constructing three wind turbines on the top of the Cirque at Snowmass, Colo.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Power outages spur changes at resort
After a winter of significant power outages at Kirkwood Mountain Resort, the ski area's operators hired a new service provider to improve reliability from the resort's power supplier, Kirkwood Mountain Utilities LLC.
Holt Caterpillar out of Sacramento helped redesign an air intake and upgrade a turbocharger at the Kirkwood's diesel-fueled power plant, according to a statement from the resort.
"We are very impressed with Holt's understanding of the unique situation of operating diesel generators in this climate at these altitudes. It has been very frustrating to have brand-new, state-of-the-art engines that could not be serviced by the dealer and that were not working for our clients," Wayne Amer, president of Mountain Utilities, said in the statement.
Two generators purchased in 2006 and 2007 experienced mechanical problems last winter, causing the resort to limit lift operations over several days.
"The successful integration of these generators into Mountain Utilities' operating system presented its own unique set of challenges as both engines experienced multiple catastrophic failures - leaving the ski resort without power on two separate incidents last winter," the statement said. The mechanical problems resulted in the complete closure of the resort Feb. 3.
Kirkwood officials also expect to complete separating the commercial, residential and ski-lift power feeds at the resort in September, a project several years in the making. The separation will allow quicker restoration of power in the event of a failure.
"Last year was incredibly frustrating for our guests and employees, and we wanted to see a dramatic improvement coming into this season," Chip Seamans, Kirkwood Mountain Resort's general manager and chief operating officer, said in the statement. "We have worked closely with (Mountain Utilities) to be sure they have both the capacity and redundancy to meet our needs under any circumstance, and that their network can be recovered more quickly in the event of an issue. It was very painful to know they had the power at points last year but could only bring it online slowly."
Upon completion of all the projects, Mountain Utilities will have two to three times the redundancy in its power systems compared with last winter, the statement indicated. Delete Comment
Director of Retail & Rental Operations
Kirkwood Mountain Resort