Aspen Invests Big in Colo. Alternative Energy Plant

Methane emissions could power four resorts.
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Methane emissions could power four resorts.

Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) is footing 90 per cent of the bill to construct a power plant that will turn methane emissions into electricity from Elk Creek Coal Mine in Somerest, Colo.  Once constructed, the plant will produce 25 million kW of electricity per year, about the same amount needed to power ASC’s four resorts.

As of now, the mine’s methane gas is released into the atmosphere as waste product. Harmful to the environment, methane gas is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It can remain in the atmosphere for 9 to 15 years, making it one of the most harmful greenhouse gases.

Eight years ago, Auden Schendler, VP of sustainability at ASC, along with energy expert, Randy Udall and Tom Vessels, creator of the Coal Mine Methane Coalition, visited a coal mines in western Colorado to see if their idea to turn methane into energy was feasible.

After years of planning and negotiations, ASC finalized contracts last week to have the plant operating by September.

“This project is an incredible bang for your buck,” said Schendler. “We would have to spend half a billion dollars on solar energy to get equivalent CO2 benefits.” In past, ASC has conducted smaller scale projects to reduce its carbon footprint but Schendler says it’s time to make a larger statement.

“We’re working with major trade groups so they become a major voice on climate change in the outdoor industry,” Schendler says. “We’re getting everyone - coalminers, environmentalists, politicians – to work together to address and fix the issue of climate change.”