Ski areas around the world are working towards carbon neutrality. Some have always been carbon neutral – located at places where hydro electric power generation pre-dates ski lifts and produces far more clean, green electricity than they’ll ever use. Others have invested in huge nearby solar farms or build new wind turbines or hydro-electric facilities that can cover all, or most of their energy consumption very quickly. Still others pay to carbon offset their power usage where they can’t quickly switch to a local green energy source.
Then in a fourth category are resorts working with more limited green power generating opportunities to switch as fast as they can to locally sourced green power. Among the is Serre Chevalier, the largest ski area in the southern French Alps, which just hit an interim target to generate 3% of its energy needs from green power sources installed on site.
It reached 3% at the end of 2020 and is on course to pass 30% by the end of next year on the way to its target of having zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The initial 3% target was met with the installation of the last solar panels on the buildings of la Chaume and the Prorel Station, combined with power produced by two small wind turbines (10kwh each).
Earlier this year, the resort’s first hydro-electric turbine was installed and production started in the spring and a second will begin working in the spring of next year. Annual green energy production should then reach 3000 MWh/year, which is 20.7% of the energy needs of the ski area. With other initiatives Serre Chevalier aims to be up to 30% renewable electric powered by 2023.
Several of the most eco-conscious ski areas have created organisations designed to promote the transition to carbon neutrality across the resort community to generate ideas and help support multiple projects at all levels. In Serre Chevalier their group is called ‘Tous Engagés’ and brings together employees, resort guests and partners.
Although only formed in the past six months this has already organised initiatives on more energy efficient slope grooming methods, run think-tanks on man-made snow production, adapting the speed of lifts to cut energy use and more.
Serre Chevalier is also making the environment a priority when planning upgrades to its ski area. A major new gondola currently under construction will use less energy than the lifts it replaces. It will also help in moving the nursery slopes to the top of the mountain for a lower reliance on machine-made snow, which the resort has already decided it wishes to be less reliant on. Work on the new Pontillas gondola will begin later this year and the new lift will open in 2024.