Crystal buys wind energy credits to power chairlift

THOMPSONVILLE – Crystal Mountain Resort of Thompsonville will further its commitment to renewable energy by purchasing wind power to run the resort's high-speed chairlift this winter.

The plan has met with approval from the Michigan Land Use Institute, (MLUI), an independent, non-profit research organization which focuses on land stewardship, energy development and resource protection.

"What Crystal Mountain has done, meeting some of its energy needs through wind power, is great," said Carolyn Kelly, MLUI's associate editor and author of wind power articles appearing on the organization's web site and in its Great Lakes News Bulletin Service. "We're definitely supportive of wind energy. It's essential to expand our capacity to produce clean, alternative energy."

Since there's currently no way to deliver electricity directly from a wind farm to the resort, Crystal will purchase wind credits which guarantee that power used to run the chairlift will be replaced with clean, renewable wind energy somewhere on the U.S. power grid. While continuing to purchase its electricity from Cherryland Electric, Crystal will also pay an extra sum to purchase the credits from Renewable Choice Energy, a wind power broker in Boulder, Colo. that acts as a middle man between the wind farm and the wind power customer.

"Wind power brokering is a smart market mechanism," said MLUI's Kelly. "It's not always possible or practical to purchase wind power on site, so it's handy if consumers can purchase it somewhere else."

Proceeds from the sale of wind credits go directly to wind farms, which use credits to offset higher costs associated with developing wind power. Businesses and individuals buying wind credits help keep wind power competitive, according to Renewable Choice Energy's website.

Crystal's President and General Manager Jim MacInnes has had an interest in wind power for 30 years and researched the cost of using a wind turbine at the resort before the opportunity to purchase wind power credits arose.

"It's an added cost, yes," said Joan O'Neill, public relations and communications manager for Crystal Mountain. "We do pay more to be able to use wind energy, but we know we're reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil and the pollution that contributes to global warming."

Powering the Crystal Clipper chairlift with wind power will prevent 174,000 pounds of carbon dioxide-a major contributor to global warming, according to Renewable Choice Energy-from polluting the atmosphere each year.

Crystal Mountain is a member of the National Ski Areas Association, (NSAA), which has two initiatives known as Sustainable Slopes and Keep Winter Cool. The focus of Sustainable Slopes for the next six years will be to increase member resorts' use of green energy.

Winds of exchange

O'Neill said it was "surprisingly easy" for Crystal to arrange the purchase of its wind power, in this case through Renewable Choice Energy.

The Boulder company, in its sixth year, has seven core wind power partners across the U.S. and currently works with clients in 45 states, according to CEO Quayle Hodek.

The company's largest wind energy clients include Whole Foods Market, which is using 100 percent wind power for its stores, and Vail Resorts of Colorado. Included among its clients is the University of Michigan's Natural Resources department, which began purchasing wind power for its building last year.

"Our revenues are growing dramatically," Hodek said. "There's a lot of interest for this. If you look at our client list, including Toyota, Honda, Sprint and Johnson & Johnson, it really speaks to how this is becoming a mainstream goal of corporate America-and of smaller businesses, too.

"A lot of individuals and businesses want to make a difference but don't know how," he continued. "They're so busy with their lives and can't always find the time to take the first step. All they need to do is call us or visit our website at www.renewablechoice.com."

Crystal is also encouraging its employees and guests to join in the Resort's renewable energy efforts. It's offering a free one-day ski lift ticket, valid anytime during the 2006-2007 season, to anyone who purchases wind power for their family's residence for one year through Renewable Choice Energy. More details about the promotion, including applicable restrictions, and Crystal Mountain's wind power purchase program can be found at the Resort's website, crystalmountain.com.

"From a marketing standpoint, our guests appreciate our commitment (to being environmentally friendly) and have told us they are proud of us," O'Neill said. "We feel it's our responsibility to do this. As we're able to, we'd like to expand that resource and eventually be 100 percent powered by renewable energy." BN

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