In addition to offsetting 100 percent of the power used at Killington Resort with Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), the resort is enrolled in the Cow Power program, a completely local form of renewable energy made in Vermont.
Staying with Vermont tradition of buying local, the K-1 Express Gondola will be powered solely by manure from local dairy farms. In the process, this reduces greenhouse emissions produced by cows and expands the use of the readily available, renewable resource in Vermont. Through Green Mountain Power, Killington Resort has purchased 300,000 kilowatt hours of Cow Power to run the K-1 Express Gondola year round.
Killington Resort was honored to receive the National Ski Area Association Golden Eagle Award in 2013 in recognition of our ongoing dedication to the environment with the Cow Power Program.
How does Cow Power Work?
You may be asking, “How will they power a gondola with cow manure!?” The power actually comes from methane, a flammable gas that is a major part of natural gas, released from manure as it decomposes. Farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally, the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.
The left over manure in the digester does not go to waste; it is separated into solid and liquid portions. The liquid portion is used as enhanced fertilizer and the solids, consisting of plant fibers including grass, corn stalk fibers, grain hulls, etc. can replace sawdust as bedding for the cows.
According to the EPA the decomposition of cow manure produces 7 percent of the United States’ methane, a gas that is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. So, not only does the K-1 Express Gondola use a local, renewable source for electricity, but it lessens the amount of greenhouse gases release into the atmosphere. Good for the environment, good for local farms and good for the keeping snow on the mountain!
Currently, 13 Vermont farms, with roughly 10,000 total dairy cows producing 300,000 gallons of manure per day, participate in the GMP Cow Power program and are compensated for their electric generation and the related environmental benefits. The energy is used locally and the program continues to grow annually with new farms and new customers joining regularly.
Let’s use brown to keep Vermont green!