Aspen’s Skiing Co.’s latest alternative-energy project is operating at full capacity, even though the coal mine it is tied to has closed.
Skico operates a 3-megawatt power plant that harnesses methane vented from the Elk Creek Mine in Somerset. The power plant is running at full capacity even though Oxbow Mining closed down the coal mine, according to Auden Schendler, Skico’s vice president of sustainability.
“The project was always designed to operate even if the mine closed,” he said.
Methane is produced in the mine even when coal production isn’t occurring. The methane continues to be emitted, so it is captured and combusted by Skico’s power plant. The electricity is sold to Holy Cross Energy.
The project fired up in November 2012 but only has operated at full capacity in recent months, Schendler said. It will generate 24 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. That is the equivalent of what Skico uses to operate its chairlifts, restaurants, lodges and snowmaking guns for a year.
Vessels Coal Gas of Denver was a partner in the project.
Schendler said Holy Cross Energy has a 15-year contract to purchase power from Skico’s coal-methane system. The system only burns one-sixth of the methane gas available at the mine so there is the potential to generate more power from the Elk Creek Mine, he said.
Skico is featuring the project in one of its prime print advertisements for the 2013-14 season. The ad says, “Before Aspen, The Mountain Never Had This Kind Of Energy” in a bold headline. Smaller type explains the project. An eye-catching image shows a snowboarder riding a rail with conveyer belts and a coal bin at the mine as the background.
More about the project and the ad can be found on Skico’s website at www.aspensnowmass.com/ourstory.