May 17, 2011

PCMR secures permit for high-altitude wind turbine, solar array

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF, 17 May 2011

Park City Mountain Resort has secured the approval it needed to build a wind turbine and solar array at the upper elevations of the resort, receiving praise from Park City leaders for its environmentalism as the permit was awarded.

The Park City Planning Commission last Wednesday unanimously approved the permit on a 4-0 vote. Nobody testified during a hearing held prior to the vote. The PCMR proposal had not received wide publicity until the beginning of the week.

Planning Commissioners who spoke prior to the vote were upbeat about the idea of a wind turbine and solar array being put at the resort.

Planning Commissioner Julia Pettit called PCMR a “great leader” in its environmental programs, noting that the two installations will reduce PCMR’s emissions. Charlie Wintzer, another member of the Planning Commission, requested PCMR provide an update on how well the turbine and array after they have been operating for a year.

The resort plans to situate the turbine and solar array close to the top terminal of the Silverlode lift, at an elevation of 9,244 feet. A resort official has indicated the location offers windy conditions and exposure to the sun. Brent Giles, who directs the resort’s operations and is the director of environmental affairs for parent company Powdr Corp., has said PCMR researched sites for five years and measured wind speeds for three years.

Giles said the resort anticipates installing the turbine and the array by the end of August, with the work
beginning by the beginning of that month. He expects both will be operational by the beginning of September. PCMR wants to put in a small kiosk at the site explaining the systems as well.

The turbine will be approximately 38 feet tall. It will be what is known as a vertical-axis turbine, with its blades shaped cylindrically, rather than the more commonly known style that appears to be a high-tech windmill. The solar array will measure approximately 20 feet by 20 feet.

Giles has said the two could produce between 20,000 and 30,000 kilowatt-hours of energy between them. That is the approximate amount of energy used in a 1,200-square-foot house over a three-year period but only a tiny percentage of the resort’s overall annual energy needs, he has said.

PCMR has been a leader among mountain resorts in its environmental programs, earning accolades from community leaders and high marks from a group that grades ski areas in the West based on the resorts’ commitment to the environment.

Mayor Dana Williams, speaking at a City Council meeting the day after the Planning Commission approved the turbine and array, commended PCMR. Williams and the City Council have made advancing City Hall’s wide-ranging environmental efforts a top priority. Williams noted during the meeting others should be pursuing green projects besides the municipal government.

PCMR and City Hall hold the belief that a warming planet could someday impact the ski industry, threatening the local economy.

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