Stevens Pass Mountain Resort is producing power for Chelan PUD’s solar program
When you think of skiing or snowboarding you think snow, right? But at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort they’re thinking sun. As in solar, and solar power.
The resort installed a small solar system at the top of its Skyline Chairlift that should generate electricity most of the year, said John Meriwether, manager of Environmental Sustainability.
Stevens Pass Mountain Resort has added a solar system along the Skyline Chairlift and expects to churn out sun power up to 10 months of the year.
“In summertime we’re pretty high and exposed to the sun, really for eight, nine, 10 months out of the year,” he said. The eight-panel, 1.9-watt system is on a fixed pole and won’t track with the sun, which in hindsight might have been a better option. “Something I learned (recently) is that we probably should have put it on something that tilted, because January-February-March it’s in the shade. If it tilted toward snow we could possibly have gotten some reflective light.”
The installation was delayed by a year when the Tumwater, Wash. engineering firm hired for the project declared bankruptcy. A Seattle contractor was called in to take over, and the installation was connected to Chelan PUD’s grid on July 10. The resort is now part of the PUD’s customer-based SNAP program.
A $5,000 grant from the National Ski Area Association helped Stevens Pass pay for the project. More solar is planned. “Chairlifts have lift stations that need maintenance and upgrading, and once they come around in our maintenance rotation, we’ll plug a solar component into that,” Meriwether said. Prime south-facing locations include the Double Diamond chairlift and the spot where the Jupiter and Tyemill lifts come together.
Stevens Pass has won several regional and national environmental honors, including the National Ski Area Association’s Golden Eagle Award for environmental excellence in 2012. The resort has an aggressive sustainability program, Meriwether said, that takes in recycling, composting and energy and water conservation. A facilities audit conducted a few years ago resulted in a road map for the resort to make efficiency improvements “and we’ve been clicking away at those projects,” he said. Upgrades made at its three lodges include insulating doors, adding occupancy sensors for lighting, sealing elevator shafts against heat loss and installing low-flow toilets.
Resort staff also helped bring an electric vehicle charging station to Stevens Pass. A former staff member on that project, Ross Freeman, is now the sustainability manager for the city of Mercer Island, where a “solarize” campaign is under way with Northwest SEED.