Snowgun Efficiency

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Snowguns
at the heart of ski-area efficiency

By The Times Argus | on November 18, 2017

By
KAREN D. LORENTZ

CORRESPONDENT

One of Killington Ski Resort’s high-efficiency snow cannons blankets the area in 2015. Snowmaking technology such as this has helped Killington to be named the most energy-efficient resort in Vermont that year. STAFF FILE PHOTO

One of Killington Ski
Resort’s high-efficiency snow cannons blankets the area in 2015. Snowmaking
technology such as this has helped Killington to be named the most
energy-efficient resort in Vermont that year. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Ski areas
throughout the state have invested millions in energy-efficiency measures such
as wind, solar and recharging stations for electric cars, according to Chloe
Elliott, communications manager at Ski Vermont.

The most
critical and expensive cost ski areas face, however, is snowmaking. A 17-year
trend to improve snowmaking efficiency and sustainability has resulted in the
use of high-tech snowgun and compressor technologies.

In honor of
Bromley Mountain’s continuing innovations, having completed a reported 27
energy-efficiency projects since 2000, Efficiency Vermont recently awarded the
area a 2017 Energy Leadership Award for Project of the Year, Innovation.

In presenting
the award, Efficiency Vermont Director Karen Glitman praised the area for “an
impressive commitment to efficiency improvements.” Citing the installation of
10 new, high-efficiency Sledgehammer snowguns and the fine-tuning of air
compressors this summer, she noted Bromley has adopted “nearly every
energy-efficiency technology in snowmaking.”

The
Sledgehammers are low-energy guns developed by SnowGun Technologies in
partnership with LP Snowsystems. SnowGun Technologies is a subsidiary of The
Fairbank Group, the father-son team of Brian and Tyler Fairbank, who own and
operate Jiminy, Cranmore and Bromley resorts.

Dramatic savings
were experienced when Jiminy replaced 450 snowguns with Sledgehammers in
2016-17, because they used less compressed air while doubling snow production.
Their products can convert 44 gallons of water per minute into snow at 25
degrees wet bulb (a temperature that takes humidity into consideration).

In addition to
adding the Sledgehammers, Bromley replaced the nozzles on 55 of its SV-10
snowguns and changed the air cartridges within the guns to reduce overall air
consumption. They were also able to increase efficiency of their air
compressors, according to Bromley’s director of Mountain Operations, Rick
Goddard.

“The primary
goal with this installation is to monitor and control the compressed air system
and optimize its operation. With the two compressors working in tandem, energy
management is enhanced as we now have the capability to use this minimum amount
of energy to meet system air demand,” he said.

Bromley’s
energy-efficiency measures extend to a new snow groomer with a diesel-electric
drive that reduces fuel consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases by 20
percent, with 99 percent fewer sooty particles released into the environment,
according to Goddard.

In commenting on
the award, Bromley President Bill Cairns said, “We’ve made the most out of the
rebates and incentives that Efficiency Vermont has offered over the last 17
years, with Bromley getting about as much out of the program as we paid into
our electric bill. The rebates and incentives also encouraged us to become
early adopters of new technology such as SEI.”

He was referring
to the snowmaking energy index, a number that allows snowmaking departments to
monitor and measure the energy consumption status of the snowmaking system. As
they do so, the operators can adjust air, water and number of snowguns working
for maximum effective use of available energy. Bromley was one of the first in
the nation to adopt this system.

‘Air
hogs’ begone

In 2014
Efficiency Vermont teamed up with the state’s ski areas to replace 1,800 old
snowguns with 2,300 high-efficiency models. Over $15 million was invested
during the “great snowgun roundup,” for incentives, according to Efficiency
Vermont.

Chuck Clerici,
the organization’s senior account manager, said snowmaking upgrades have
continued at almost all areas and the “old air hogs” have been replaced with
low-energy guns to bring down the use of expensive compressed air. He noted
that sustainable and innovative technologies are being used to power lifts and
buildings, as well as to save water and money at resorts, adding that
Killington also received a 2017 Leadership Award.

Efficiency
Vermont recognized Killington for, “excellent collaboration at all levels of
the organization” and 61 efficiency projects since 2000; 2.5 million kilowatts
of energy and 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel savings in 2016-17; the first
resort to complete an energy Kaizen (a focused energy savings event) and an
employee home-energy workshop; and adoption of efficiency technologies at the
Grand Resort Hotel.

Killington also
plans to install solar trackers and roof panels, along with a contract to
purchase power from nearby solar array projects. New solar-generated
electricity is expected to eventually cover all energy needs required to pump
water to snowguns on ski trails at Killington and Pico.

Wind turbines,
lighting fixture replacements, pellet stoves, solar trackers and arrays,
timers, charging stations and recycling are among other efficiency projects
found at Vermont resorts. Together with snowmaking projects, they put Vermont
at the forefront of mountain-resort efficiency and render the state a national
leader in energy projects, Elliott said.

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