A recurring topic of this blog is how energy and water intensive the ski industry is. Luckily, a new wind turbine, from the company Eole Water, has found a way to address this issue. Their turbine is specifically engineered to solve these issues. The goal of the company is to provide these turbines to countries and communities where water and electricity are scarce. The turbines have four settings. It can generate either water or electricity for the entire day, can produce water 70% of the day and electricity the other 30% or vise versa. The amount of water created is dependant of the humidity levels in the area, however, one can expect roughly 1,500 liters of water collection each day in optimal settings. If just 1,000 liters are produced a day, the company says this sufficient for a village of 2-3 thousand people.
What is important is to understand that ski areas have a real opportunity to reduce their environmental impact. Having the ability to generate their own power and supplement their water supply is an important step towards sustainability. Providing clean local energy is important for several reasons. First is reducing the dependency on fossil fuels that will continue to become more expensive as resources become scarce. Secondly, is that while the chances of a blizzard are continuing to decrease, the fact remains that they can still occur, effectively taking out power lines. At a resort this would destroy the image. First and most important, is the safety of the guest in terms of food, warmth, and medical issues one commonly finds during a long term power outage in blizzard conditions. Secondly, is the image that will be conveyed to the guests. In the event of a blizzard, the free marketing and press that would occur from a ski area being self sufficient during a blizzard would do wonders when the stories of resorts without power are broadcasted.
The second upside of the turbines for a ski area is the water. The water is collected in basins at the base of each turbine. It would be easy to use this water for snow making or human consumption simply by piping the water to where it is needed. The water would most likely make the most impact for human consumption as snowmaking activities eat up millions of gallons of water annually. If enough turbines were installed however, one can speculate that enough water and energy could be created to make a ski area self sufficient during the summer season when occupancy is lower and business slows down. As far as marketing is concerned this will create positive buzz. Whether your aim is to become more sustainable, lower utility costs, or to differentiate oneself for marketing purposes, these turbines fit each role. It is important to understand that a ski area is a business just like any other, and their goal may not be to mitigate environmental effects. Implementing these turbines is a great way to save money and the environment.