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Jim Van Dyke
Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, Jiminy Peak Ski Resort
Commercial User, Hancock, Massachusetts
Over the next century, global warming is expected to take a toll on the Northeast ski industry by shortening the ski season, requiring substantial increases in snowmaking, and making individual resorts—such as Jiminy Peak—more vulnerable. For more information on global warming threats and solutions, visit Climate Choices. More »
Over the last 34 years, Jim Van Dyke has worked nearly every job at Jiminy Peak Ski Resort in Hancock, Massachusetts. He still remembers his first day back in 1974, when he ran the lift on a cold, blustery Thanksgiving morning. Since then he has done everything from flipping burgers to running the resort's public water and waste water treatment operations. In 2007 he became Jiminy Peak's vice president for environmental sustainability. His biggest task was to oversee construction of the resort's utility-size wind turbine.
"I'm not one to turn away from a challenge or one to be stopped by an obstacle," said Van Dyke, 51. "So in my tenure here I've been given the opportunity to learn a lot of different things because of that attitude and to start off a project by becoming immersed in it and learning about it."
During the 2005-2006 ski season, the resort owners asked Van Dyke to figure out a way to control energy costs. Jiminy Peak was reeling from two years of record utility bill increases of about 50 percent.
"We are an energy hog when it comes to electricity. So those increases in our operating costs were becoming hurtful to our ability to do business," said Van Dyke. "We are very sensitive to passing on our costs to our customers because skiing is an expensive sport to begin with. They'll find another way to spend disposable income."
Van Dyke's solution? Become the first wind-powered ski resort in North America.
First Van Dyke applied for and won a $585,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technological Collaborative. Then he had to persuade the resort's surrounding communities, Hancock and Lanesboro, and the state to approve the project. He got the green light, but Van Dyke said Jiminy Peak was still unsure.
"We were a little leery about looking into the generation component of controlling energy costs because that's not our business," he said. "Our business is the resort business: skiing, lodging, conference sales."
Van Dyke also was wrestling with the fact that he knew "absolutely nothing" about wind turbines. So he enrolled in a three-week class on the business of maintaining and troubleshooting wind turbines to bring himself up to speed.
In August 2007 Jiminy Peak installed the turbine atop a 253 foot tower near the mountain's summit. Since then, Van Dyke said, Jiminy has taken 4.6 million kilowatt hours a year off the grid—or nearly half of what the resort uses each year after accounting for other energy saving measures the resort has taken, including improving snowmaking efficiency and installing more efficient lighting fixtures.
"The turbine is only half of the story," said Van Dyke. "The other half is the work we've been doing all along—and those are the things everybody can do to save energy."