Maine Ski Area on the Path to Carbon Neutrality
In the News | April 5, 2013 |Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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Where can you ski in Maine while getting a free fill-up for your car? If you guessed Mt Abram in Greenwood, ME (and you have a plug-in vehicle) you are correct!
Matt Hancock, who has owned Mt Abram for the past five years, has been steadily investing in clean energy infrastructure with a goal of eliminating fossil fuel energy and CO2 emissions from his unique ski area. “With unpredictable weather in our industry, we are trying to achieve long-term sustainability by locking in our energy costs and trying to reduce fossil fuel consumption. It may come as a surprise to some business owners that renewable energy is much more stable than volatile fossil fuels,” says Hancock, noting that Mt Abram is one of only two ski areas nationwide that provide free electric vehicle charging to customers.
The base lodge, rental shop and ski patrol buildings are all heated with an efficient, carbon neutral pellet boiler system that lives in an “energy box” located front and center as you drive into the main parking lot. “Maine is 90% forest and we are proud to be burning a clean, renewable local fuel that grows right here in our backyard,” said Hancock. Today the cost for pellet fuel is running at almost half the cost of oil. There are four pellet mills in Maine and another is in final planning stages, ensuring that businesses and homeowners that invest in a modern, fully automated pellet boiler will have a steady fuel supply at stable rates for decades to come.
Hancock’s next big project for Mt Abram is a large-scale solar electric system that will power the chairlifts and the rest of the mountain’s operations with clean, renewable sunshine. “We have calculated that a 330 kilowatt grid-tied photovoltaic system will pretty much take care of all our electricity demand,” said Hancock, who is working on a creative financing strategy to make the project happen. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount about solar over the three years since we started looking into this project. Every year the project economics have improved and now we feel we are just about at the right place and time to make this happen.”
“Solar electricity has become cost competitive with grid electricity,” Hancock says, “Because the technology is robust and reliable even in a relatively harsh northern climate–the panels come with a 25-year warranty.” This enables a business owner to lock in a rate that is lower than utility’s commercial rate over the warranty life of the system with the knowledge that the panels have an expected useful lifespan of 35+ years.
We think you should head over to Mt Abram to see for yourself why it has won the prestigious Golden Eagle award for Environmental Excellence. It is the ultimate family mountain with everything from gentle groomers to black diamond steeps and bumps and everything in between.
While you’re there, don’t forget to stop into the cozy mountaintop warming hut that is heated with a toasty little wallhung pellet-fired unit!