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Renewable Energy - Production
The Fitzsimmons Renewable Energy Project
The Fitzsimmons micro hydro renewable energy project is a story of perseverance and partnerships. Situated in the center of Whistler Blackcomb under the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, is the Fitzsimmons River. This is the largest watercourse and best option for renewable energy inside the ski area. The greatest opportunity to produce renewable energy inside our operating footprint is micro hydro because of our abundance of water and significant vertical drop. With abundant water flows, no power lines required and over 70% of project footprint layered onto existing disturbed areas, the project was ideal.
The process to get public support, obtain permitting, resolve engineering challenges and find developers and investors took seven years of effort. by Ledcor Power Inc. the builder and Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. became the majority owner and operator. Whistler Blackcomb's primary motivation was that this project would return back onto the grid an estimated 32 Gigawatt hours of electricity annually, the equivalent of energizing 3000 to 4000 homes and also equal to Whistler Blackcomb's annual energy consumption. Seven years of persistence and finding exceptional partners made this project happen.
Energy Strategy - Conservation
To date, Whistler Blackcomb has carried out retrofits that save more than 4, 575,000 kWh of electricity per year, which is equal to about 15% of our on-mountain consumption and represents the amount of power it takes to run over 450 homes in BC for a year. We have further reduced our carbon footprint by implementing several hybrid heating projects that reduce our natural gas consumption by True to the adage "What can't be measured, can't be managed", we spent 2009 focusing on improving measurement, monitoring and reporting of our utility usage by installing 19 sub meters and utilizing more sophisticated software tools. Armed with more accurate and timely data, we are back to implementing the most impacting energy efficiency projects on the ground. In 2010/11 we will complete projects that will save an estimated 1,511,300 kWh in electricity or enough to power over 150 homes in BC for a year.
People, Planning and Accountability
Now that we have a more accurate way of tracking our energy use, we have set a 5% reduction target for electricity and natural gas usage. Our energy strategy is outlined in our WB Sustainability Policy which was created with input from our staff and endorsed by our Senior Leadership Team. Management and supervisory staff are required to include sustainability planning in their goals and objectives and the 5% reduction target is tied to annual performance reviews and financial incentives. We employ a full-time Energy Manager/Environmental Coordinator to support energy reduction initiatives.
We look at our overall fuel usage when planning our efficiency projects. For us, improving our heating systems has a much more significant impact than using biodiesel in our snow cats. We have installed hybrid heating projects that maximize the efficient use of natural gas and electricity in five of our large facilities including the Roundhouse Lodge, Glacier Creek Restaurant, Daylodge and two employee housing buildings. These heating systems reduce our emissions by nearly 600 tonnes annually.
We have changed over 11,000 lights on the mountains to more efficient options such as LED and compact fluorescent technologies. We are not waiting for our inefficient bulbs to burn out to improve efficiency. We have audited all of our facilities and are currently developing a plan to tackle our least efficient facilities first. We are currently changing out fixtures that will bring annual electrical savings of nearly 400,000 kWh per year.
Turn It Off
We are one of five corporations selected by BC Hydro to participate in a pilot project to develop behavioural/awareness campaigns aimed at reducing energy usage by improving behaviours and simply turning things off. Beyond our retrofits and purchasing for energy efficiency, we are developing a toolkit to help our employees reduce consumption by changing daily habits in the workplace. We have a cross-sectional team of 15 staff members from all of our divisions planning and carrying out this program. At minimum, the project is expected to see over 800,000 kWh of savings.
We have just completed the investigation and planning phase of the BC Hydro Continuous Optimization program at our Roundhouse restaurant. Partnering with energy consultants, we have identified opportunities to optimize energy usage in the Roundhouse restaurant. Implementation began in November 2010. Forecasted savings are 7% or 265,000 kWh for the facility. Results will also be used to improve efficiencies at our other on-mountain restaurants.
Fuel for Vehicles
We have reduced the size of our fleet, purchased more efficient snow cats and snowmobiles and reduced company travel in an effort to reduce our fuel consumption. We have had an employee carpooling program in place for over 10 years that utilizes company vehicles to transport employees living in Squamish and Pemberton. Our employee carpooling program saves more than 86,000 litres of fuel and 208 tones in emissions annually. This year we have set a 5% fuel reduction target for our vehicles. We have a corporate anti-idling policy and are educating our staff on other ways to reduce fuel consumption. Progress is tracked and reported to managers with accountability tied to annual performance and financial incentives.
Whistler Blackcomb encourages our guests and staff to reduce air pollution by turning off their vehicles when not in use. Beyond our corporate anti-idling policy, we also have a policy for buses and other vehicles servicing our on-mountain programs. We provide signage for our guests in key areas and partner with the Canada West Ski Area Association to improve our anti-idling campaign.
Rather than supporting green energy projects from afar in the form of green credits, Whistler Blackcomb opted [as a strategic partner] to devote resources to allow a clean, micro hydro project to be developed within our own tenure. It took six years and a lot of determination to bring together the stakeholders and carry out the steps to make this project a reality. The Fitzsimmons Run of River hydro project produces the same amount of electricity that Whistler Blackcomb uses annually. We also have a small turbine running in Symphony Creek that runs the power for the lift hut and washrooms at the bottom of the Symphony lift. We continue to investigate opportunities for harnessing green power within Whistler Blackcomb.