With the Winter Solstice recently behind us, many of us are thinking about the increasing daylight. Around the Solstice, I remind myself that the best of the winter season is still ahead of us – longer days, colder temperatures, more sunshine, and much more snow. While I have snow on my mind for most of the winter, the sun is a close second for several reasons.
Sugarbush is uniquely situated to offer slopes with a variety of aspects in and out of the sun. If you consider how the sun affects snow conditions, it might influence where and when you want to ski. Much of our terrain is north facing which means it is out of direct sunlight and is ideal for snow preservation. Slopes with northern aspects hold powder conditions longer and help us to ski Stein’s Run into May. But there are times when southern facing slopes ski the best because south aspect receives direct sunlight which softens the snow. Trails like Sunrise, Morning Star, and Birch Run are especially sweet when North Lynx is basking in wall-to-wall sun, and you get your choice of soft moguls or buttery corduroy.
While the sun may play a role in how you may choose to ski the mountain, the sun now has a bigger role in powering the resort. For several years, we have partnered with Green Lantern Solar to invest in solar energy development throughout the state. We have also been searching for the best location on site for solar. After a few years of planning and permitting, we flipped the switch on a solar array along the north edge of Lot F last week.
For those curious about the numbers, the new solar array has a capacity of 133 kW (kilowatts) and will produce 190,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) over the course of a year. To make a simple comparison, it could power about 18 households. At Sugarbush, it will cover the electricity consumption for the Mountain Wastewater Treatment Plant, the EV charging stations at Lincoln Peak, Mt Ellen’s vehicle maintenance building, and a portion of employee housing. This is in addition to the 2.3 MW (megawatts), or 2,300 kW of capacity, from the 6 existing solar projects we have supported in Vermont. Sugarbush’s 7 solar arrays, totaling 2.43MW, produce enough electricity on an annual basis to power Mt. Ellen’s operations with energy to spare for other electricity needs at the resort!
Even though Vermont sees its share of cloudy days, there is still plenty of possible solar energy throughout the year to make it a worthwhile investment. Through net metering, a program with our electric utility, we bank solar credits from each kWh of energy produced. Just like our snowmakers produce banks of snow that last well into spring, net metering allows Sugarbush’s solar arrays to bank credits from long, sunny days for use well into the winter. This arrangement provides an incentive for renewable energy development and discounted net metering credits on our power bills.
Given the challenging nature of this year, the sun provides extra solace in many ways. Constructing this solar array is a sunny spot in closing out 2020 knowing that we are relying less on fossil fuels. May the New Year bring us all a brighter, healthier, and cleaner future. And a whole lot of snow! For more information on sustainability initiatives at Sugarbush, visit https://www.sugarbush.com/discover/sustainability/.