A Nebraska Wind Farm Gets Vail Resorts Close To 100% Renewable Electricity

Gondola One ferried skiers and snowboarders up Vail Mountain on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. Gondola One ferried skiers and snowboarders up Vail Mountain on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Gondola One ferried skiers and snowboarders up Vail Mountain on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.

There might not be much skiing in Nebraska, but the Cornhusker state is helping Vail Resorts reach its 100 percent renewable electricity goal.

Vail announced a partnership with energy company Ørsted in 2018, and committed to purchase 310,000 megawatt hours of wind energy for the next 12 years. The Plum Creek wind project is now online in Wayne County in northeast Nebraska.

"We do have smaller projects that we have signed onto previously, but this is a huge step towards bringing that additional renewable energy online and to meeting our goal," said Kate Wilson, Vail's director of sustainability.

The contract will cover more than 90 percent of Vail's current electricity use across its 34 North American resorts. The idea was for the project to meet 100 percent of Vail's needs, but the company acquired 17 smaller ski areas in the U.S. since the agreement with Ørsted was first made.

The energy from the wind farm will not go directly to Vail's resorts. Through this virtual power purchase agreement, the electricity Vail purchased adds more clean energy to the nation's electricity grid. This reduces the amount of energy generated by fossil fuels.

"A [virtual power purchase agreement] is the primary way that a geographically diverse company like Vail Resorts can bring a large scale, new renewable energy source to the grid," Wilson said. "That was really important to us, that this was new energy replacing fossil fuels."

The company has also invested in adding renewable energy to Colorado's local grid through subscribing to Xcel Energy's solar farm in Deer Trail east of Denver.

"So for us, it's a mix of looking at these large scale projects where we can really make an impact and bring new renewables to the grid," Wilson said. "Then also renewable projects in the local areas where we operate, and making sure that it's a balance of those approaches."