If there’s one industry that is quaking in its boots over climate change, it’s the ski industry, which is threatened by ever-shorter seasons and lessened snowfalls. That’s why it makes sense that they are increasingly turning to renewable energy instead of fossil-fuel based energy from the electric grid. But Berkshire East, the ski resort and mountain in Charlemont, Mass., has raced ahead of the pack, getting all of its electricity from onsite generation, including a new 500 kilowatt photovoltaic farm from AllEarth Renewables.
Climate change isn’t the main reason why the ski slope chose to add in the solar and wind. "We view on-site renewable as a hedge against the rising price of power," said Jon Schaefer, assistant general manager at Berkshire East ski area. "Energy is our largest non-labor expense and it's the one thing we are most dependent on beyond the snow."
AllEarth Renewables, the Vermont-based renewable energy company, announced April 24 that the installation of 90 of its AllSun Series 24 trackers at Berkshire East was completed. The installation will produce 700,000 kilowatt hours of electricity for the year-round resort annually. The solar farm supplements Berkshire East’s 900 kilowatt Powerwind wind turbine that generates 1.4 million kilowatt hours annually. The turbine was installed in 2010. The two systems are working in concert to provide all the resort’s electric needs.
Both projects were developed by Sustainable Energy Development Inc. (SED) of Ontario, N.Y., which chose AllEarth Renewables’ trackers for the solar installation. "Berkshire East Ski Area is a prime example of how distributed energy projects like wind and solar can help small, family-owned businesses thrive," said Kevin Schulte, CEO of SED. AllEarth Renewables owns the solar farm and has a long-term power-purchase agreement with Berkshire East to purchase the power the system produces.
While primarily a ski resort—and closed for the ski season—the resort also does zipline canopy tours in the summer and will open for the summer season in May. The resort also offers tours of the wind turbine and likely will offer tours of the solar array, as well and with over 100,000 skiers annually, that’s a lot of eyes that could get hands on with renewable energy.