Kirkwood Mountain Resort struggled last winter with a smash-bang start to the New Year when a fire destroyed their power plant Jan. 1 stranding skiers on lifts and knocking out heat and power to hotels. The resort brought in huge generators for power to finish the season, but now construction is underway for the resort's new power plant, one that will have far fewer emissions.

The six-diesel generator plant that burned served as the resort's only source of power, forcing Kirkwood to bring in four two-megawatt generators to provide interim power for the resort.

"Outside of a single 42-minute outage that occurred two weeks after the fire that overloaded the transformer, the system worked fine," CEO Dave Likins told OnTheSnow. "But it was fragile, as we had lost 60 percent of our circuits, so the system was sensitive to changes in demand."

Construction started mid-summer on the new $5.5 million plant, which will be located in what used to be the upper bay of parking at the Red Cliffs lots. The 10,000-square-foot facility, which is three times the size of the old plant, is designed as a diesel plant, but can accommodate alternative fuels and renewable energy options like wind and solar. The new power plant, which should reduce particulate emissions by 70 percent, services 700 residential customers, a number of commercial operations, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort. It should be operational by spring 2011.

"We do not expect to see any of the sensitivity we experienced last year," added Likins on the new system. "We have also had the time to hard plumb the modular power units with the new plant so we anticipate significantly improved reliability while having lower costs as a function of the improved efficiency in the new engines."

The ski area has worked with the utility district to replace the parking lot taken over by the new power plant with a new slope side lot located immediately east of the Red Cliffs cafeteria. The new parking lot will accommodate more than three times the vehicle capacity of the upper bay of Red Cliffs now housing the power plant.

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