What do Vermont ski resort owners, local farmers and about 10,000 dairy cows have in common? At Killington Ski Resort in Vermont, the trio is proving how cow poo is helping make greener strides and taking everyone to greater heights—a 4,241-foot mountain peak to be exact.
At first glance, our little black-and-white speckled, pasture-grazing friends have nothing to do with snow-covered peaks, half pipes, lodges or fresh powder but, as we’ve recently discovered, cows have everything to do with giving us a lift to those things.
Such as? How about the highest chairlift in Vermont.
This winter, Killington, the east coast’s largest ski and snowboard resort, will start powering their K-1 Express gondolas with 100 percent renewable electricity generated by methane—that whiff-worthy natural gas released from decomposing manure—from the wonder of cow poo. Through a partnership with Green Mountain (GMP) and their Cow Power program, Killington has purchased 300,000 kilowatts of this poo-powered electricity for its resort’s chairlifts.
But exactly how does a cow pattie go from the farm to a chairlift ride on a mountain?
According to Killington’s site:
“Farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it with wash water from the milking equipment, which is then pumped into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for about three weeks at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing bacteria to convert the manure into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide. The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine, which drives an electric generator to create electricity.”
Electricity generated from this process is fed into GMP’s system, which can ultimately power the gondolas.
And there’s no shortage of manure. One little cow can produce over 30 gallons of manure … in a day–the poo-power possibilities are endless.
Additionally, there are many benefits to the locals. Vermont farmers are compensated for their electricity; leftover manure gets converted into fertilizer for farms; and greenhouse gases are reduced, all through this cow program.
The resort, which already offsets 100 percent of its electricity usage with renewable energy credits, has plans to expand their cow-a-dunga efforts to power their new Killington Peak lodge in the New Year.
But another amazing aspect about using cow poo to power a ski resort? We’d vote on the adorable cow-printed gondolas.
—by Sarah McClure