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Jiminy Peak Unveils Community Solar Project

A Berkshire County ski resort is nearing the completion of what it calls the largest community solar project in the Northeast.The ceremonial switch for Jiminy Peak’s 2.3 megawatt solar facility was flipped Tuesday in an effort to completely offset the resort’s energy needs.

“This is a big day,” said Jiminy Peak CEO Tyler Fairbank. “This is a big deal for us. You are standing on a site, 12 acres with 7,500 panels that will be producing 2.3 million kilowatt hours a year.”

Fairbank was joined by representatives from The Fairbank Group and the energy company Nexamp. In all there are 682 rows of solar panels at the four-season resort in Hancock, about 15 miles north of Pittsfield.

“For Jiminy, this was a very big deal because now between the wind turbine, our cogeneration facility, all the conservation efforts that we’ve put forward and now 50 percent of this power — we are over 90 percent of our power coming from local renewable energy sources.”

Fairbank says new snow-making technology, mountain lighting and another solar project with Nexamp will bring the organization closer to 100 percent renewable energy. That project hinges on the state’s net metering caps being lifted, which is under discussion. Half of the power generated from this solar field will go to area residents and businesses. Nexamp’s CEO Zaid Ashai says the Fairbank Group, which owns Jiminy, is community-focused.

“When we walked them through the details and said ‘This plant that we’re going to build – half of the off take is going to go to Jiminy Peak, but we’re going to be able to use the other half to give a 15 percent discount net metering credits to 115 residents,’” Ashai recalled. “They said ‘We’re game. Sign us up. How do we do it?’ That’s really leadership. That’s corporate stewardship. They built a great business, but in a sustainable manner.”

Homeowners who signed up to get energy from the solar panels were on hand. Howard Kleinbaum says he could easily save $1,000 a year on electrical costs for his 2,000-square foot home.

“I heat by electric and 15 percent savings will be a big item,” Kleinbaum said. “The summer bills could be $100. But the peak of the winter were $750 for two months in a row. Then $500 and $400. But it adds up, especially when you’re on a fixed income.”

The project is interconnected with National Grid and Eversource. The effort was driven by EOS Ventures, a renewable energy company that is an enterprise of The Fairbank Group. Ashai, Nexamp’s CEO, says this solar project created 43 jobs.

“It not only drives us to fossil free energy sources, it also drives down energy cost longterm,” Ashai said. “Solar is free. Wind is free. It also drives manufacturing, electrician and construction jobs. Jobs that we know have been lost over the last two decades and that’s been really painful for the Northeast.”

Since Jiminy is a ski resort, the panels have a 20- to 25-degree tilt to allow snow to slide off. It’s expected the panels will be operating by the end of November.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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