Colorado State University Students Explore Innovative Energy Management Practices for Ski Resorts

Beginning this fall, three students from Colorado State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering are working extensively in a study with the ski industry to design and develop innovative energy management solutions.

Seth Jansen, Ashley Davis and Jesse Dean, all senior mechanical engineering students under the guidance of Professor Wade Troxell, are in the student design team NetEnergy, which stems from the undergraduate senior design practicum within the mechanical engineering department at Colorado State. The NetEnergy team will be partnering with Vail Mountain; the National Ski Areas Association, or NSAA; and the Brendle Group to explore onsite energy generation, opportunities for using renewable resources and energy storage for ski resorts. Funding for the project is provided by an Environmental Protection Agency’s P3 Award, which supports student design projects in sustainability.

"Improved environmental performance is an ongoing effort in the ski industry; this proposal complements industry efforts and has potential economic benefits as well," Jansen said.

According to NSAA’s 2003 Sustainable Slopes Annual report, large amounts of energy were used, particularly in the operation of lifts and snowmaking. Working closely with Vail Mountain, the Colorado State students will research ways to develop innovative methods of integrating existing ski area infrastructure, onsite generation and better management to create a more robust, flexible and sustainable energy cycle.

Such modifications to current energy practices at a ski area will seek to significantly reduce the local energy provider’s peak load as well as reduce the purchase of electricity generated from fossil-fueled sources. The proposed energy model developed in this study would provide energy from renewable sources that are more economical, more reliable and, therefore, more able to offer a sustainable solution.

"As of right now, there has been no comprehensive research on energy management, generation and storage within the ski industry," Davis said. "The whole purpose of NetEnergy is to look at the big picture."

NetEnergy students will seek solutions that demonstrate a mixture of technical, economic and environmental benefits to an extent that make their implementation feasible and will be general enough to be replicated at ski areas around the nation.  

This study will culminate in a final report that will be delivered in April 2005 to the EPA, the senior design management team in the mechanical engineering department and other interested parties. In May, the NetEnergy team will travel to Washington, D.C., along with other recipients of the EPA’s P3 Award to present their findings to the judging panel.

For more information about NetEnergy, contact Troxell at (970) 491-6618 or Jansen at (970) 231-4030. For more information about Vail’s environmental practices, call Jen Brown, Vail Communications Manager, at (970) 479-3001.