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Jiminy Peak expands use of renewable energy

HANCOCK — Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is about to get a bit greener — and not just because the snow is melting.

By late summer, a 2.4 megawatt solar array is expected to come online near Jiminy Peak that will boost the facility's use of renewable energy to roughly 80 percent of its needs, putting it on the leading edge of ski resorts that use renewables to reduce their need for power from the public grid.

The solar array will save the resort between $30,000 and $40,000 each year in the cost of electricity.

But it's not easy getting green.

In 2007, Jiminy Peak invested $4 million to erect a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine near the summit. In 2012, EOS Ventures — a renewable energy development company owned by the same company that owns Jiminy Peak — installed a co-gen unit that generates 400 kilowatt hours of power annually while providing hot water for the Country Village Inn at the resort.

The net affect is that 80 percent of power used at the facility will come from renewable sources — a significant achievement for a ski resort, which are among the most voracious users of power in making snow and lighting the slopes at night.

"That puts [Jiminy Peak] right at the leading edge of ski areas engaged in renewable energy initiatives," said Michael Berry, president of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association. "Jiminy really does set the standard in many ways for the rest of the industry."

Construction is expected to start by the end of the month and will likely take two to three months to complete. The site is set back enough from Brody Mountain Road that it will be largely invisible, especially when the leaves are on the trees. Part of the site is clear, but there will be some trees taken down to make room for the solar panels.

EOS Ventures, together with Apis Energy Group, has been developing the solar project for about three years, according to Tyler Fairbank, CEO of the Fairbank Group, which operates both the resort and EOS Ventures. An affiliated holding company owns the 12 acres of land, less than a mile east of the resort, on which the array will be installed.

"This was a really neat project, because we needed Eos and we needed Jiminy to get it done," Fairbank said.

At a special town meeting on last month, Hancock voters approved a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement, by a vote of 45-10, in which the town would be paid $9,800 annually and receive $2,500 in electricity credits generated by the solar installation every year.

"We're going to self-generate as much power as we possibly can and make a way for the town to benefit as well," Fairbank noted.

EOS invested about $500,000 in getting the project shovel-ready by obtaining state and local permits, developing the design and engineering plans, and arranging for interconnectivity with both National Grid and Eversource.

Then, earlier this month, the package was sold to Nexamp for an undisclosed sum. Nexamp, a solar energy development company, will build the roughly $6 million installation, own it, operate it and sell the solar renewable energy credits.

"Acquisitions are a natural complement to our solar development, construction and financing capabilities, and a growing part of our success as a company," said Zaid Ashai, CEO of Nexamp. "Our ability to work with impressive partners like EOS at any stage of a solar project's lifecycle helps to ensure that quality projects get built and contribute to our vibrant clean energy economy. Nexamp continues to seek quality acquisitions like the EOS solar project."

The net metering credits will go to Jiminy Peak, less the $2,500 worth of power going to Hancock. Nexamp will also lease the land from the Fairbank Group.

Once the project is operational, Fairbank said, the resort will be looking at other ways to reduce its reliance on the public grid.

"The next move for Jiminy is conservation," Fairbank said. "We're looking at some new snow guns that use half the power. Our goal is to continue to bring the renewables up and power usage down."

With only 20 percent of power coming from the grid, Fairbank said he would be "thrilled" if the resort could get its net renewable usage to 100 percent.

"That would be very difficult to do," noted Berry. "It would take a redoubled commitment, but if anybody could do it, Jiminy could."

Contact Scott Stafford at 413-496-6301.