Earlier this month, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows announced its ambitious initiative to move to 100 percent renewable energy by December 2018. In partnership with local utility provider, Liberty Utilities, and Tesla, Squaw Alpine is the first ski resort in the country to make such a large commitment with such a short timeline.
“This is as much a statement of the values of the company and our team as it is about economics,” Andy Wirth, COO of Squaw Alpine, told The Inertia. “In other words, we are environmentalists. We work hand in hand with Mother Nature on a day in and day out basis, and this is ultimately an expression of those values. But it also makes a great deal of fiscal sense. It’s fiscally sustainable and we have a line of sight to renewable energy being even more affordable than current fossil fuel energy over time.”
The switch will reportedly reduce the ski resort’s carbon footprint by nearly 7,000 metric tons – a 49 percent reduction.
Being Liberty Utilities’ single largest customer, Squaw Alpine has played a major role in the company’s movement away from coal to its current energy portfolio that’s comprised of 25 percent renewables. “Without Liberty’s openness to shifting perspective, this wouldn’t have been possible,” said Wirth.
Squaw Alpine and its partners are still exploring solar projects to offset all of the ski resort’s electricity use that will benefit other businesses and residences in the territory. Tesla’s role will be to manufacture a new highly efficient energy storage system, which allows for the integration of more renewables into the power grid in the future.
According to Wirth, customers are unlikely to notice the change in any discernible way, but the move is very much a recognition of the values of ski resort clientele and staff for a greener approach. “Operating a ski resort, I don’t have the luxury of debating whether climate change is or isn’t. I need to deploy strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change in the present tense.”
For Wirth, this isn’t a publicity stunt. It’s proof in the pudding that actionable solutions are possible now. And he’s hopeful other ski resorts follow Squaw Alpine’s lead. “It’s an interesting roadmap for others and it’s time to deploy these solutions right now,” he said.