Posted October 14th, 2010
The ski trails at Craftsbury have gotten their first dusting of the season – not snow, but a thick layer of leaves that blankets the trails from water bar to water bar. Winter is on its way and it’s a sure sign of transition for skiers. The warm weather wardrobe moves to the back shelf in favor of polypro and lycra, and all the members of the Green Racing Project are busy taking care of the minutiae before the whirlwind that is the racing season sweeps us off our feet.
The past couple weeks the brown UPS truck has made the trip down Town Highway 19 as regularly as the mailman. New skis, poles, boots, and race wax have come in small batches from various manufacturers around the country, and we’re still waiting on Salomon to deliver team uniforms before we head to Europe at the end of the month. We’re also keeping UPS busy at the other end, shipping skis to Colorado where Vermonter Zach Caldwell’s elite stone-grinding service will fine-tune ski bases for various snow conditions. Our team has a lot of support out there, and it’s fun to see it all roll in this time of year as everyone gets amped up for the season to kick off.
Getting ready for the race season also means tying up loose ends at the Outdoor Center before we resident athletes hit the road. We did a lot of work around the Center this summer to earn our keep, but it’s always nice to see projects through before we depart. Last week, All Earth Renewables finished installing an eight-panel solar array on the upper soccer field, marking the conclusion of a summer-long project designed to get the Outdoor Center toward its goal of cutting carbon emissions across the board.
We first met with AER in the springtime, checking out various potential sites on the Outdoor Center property that were viable for solar energy. The best spot proved to be the north end of the upper soccer field; it had the best overall sun exposure over the course of the day, and we were able to locate the individual arrays so as not to interrupt the traditional flow of ski traffic. It became a summer-long project to clear all the scrub and harvest the trees that blocked any sunlight from our selected locations.
Five months later the Center is beginning to reap the rewards of that work. The eight 25-square-foot arrays track the sun throughout the day, producing about 35 to 45 percent more electricity than a fixed system. We’re expecting our collectors to produce over 45,000 kilowatt hours each year, roughly a third of the Center’s annual energy usage.
That’s a significant number. These panels will reduce our carbon footprint by almost two tons per year, and with current state and federal tax incentives, they were an affordable investment for the limited budget of the Outdoor Center. Perhaps most importantly though, this winter the ski trails will wind through our small field of solar panels and expose everyone who visits Craftsbury to the fact that solar energy is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and worth exploring at all scales, from small home to big business. These arrays require little maintenance, have a minimum half-century life expectancy, and are surely one piece in the puzzle for a secure energy future.
As winter looms around the corner and we ready ourselves for the ski season, it is good to know that while we can’t control many of the environmentally unfriendly aspects of our sport, we have done something at home to counter balance that and move onwards in the right direction. Part of the mission of the Outdoor Center is to use and teach sustainable practices; we hope that all those affiliated with the Center follow us down the same trail that we are taking.
Tim Reynolds races for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, an Olympic development cross country ski program based at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. His work at the Center has involved organizing running and biking races all summer long. Check out his team at www.greenracingproject.com.