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CONSERVING ENERGY AT SKI RESORT- Crystal Mountain

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Crystal Mountain is a 1500-acre resort located in Benzie County in Northwestern Lower Michigan. And we’re a year-round resort, so we’re in the ski business, the golf business, meeting and conference business. We have a spa, the Midwest’s first LEED certified spa, an outdoor waterpark, an alpine slide. We have a lot of things to do here. We primarily cater to families. And we have about 600 employees that work here. And people come from all over the Midwest. And really we’ve had people from all over the world come to Crystal Mountain for one reason or another. We use about $1.3 million dollars’ worth of energy each year in the form of propane gas and electricity. And then we also use some gasoline and diesel fuel too for some of our slope vehicles. So it’s a pretty significant cost to us. And we’re concerned about the cost of energy going up over time. And so it’s really important to us to take steps to reduce our consumption of energy.

So one of the first things we did… Actually we did it about 7 or 8 years ago, is we do what’s called demand response. What we actually do is during the expensive part of the energy curve… There’s about a 15-minute period each time during the month when we’re making snow in the winter, when we draw the most energy, we actually shut down our whole snow‑making system, the snow guns and pumping system and everything for a couple-of‑hour period. And we were actually able to save over $40,000 in a month.

Some other things we’ve done with making snow is we have a series of pipes that are located throughout the hill to, bring the water to our snow guns. We have about 90 acres of terrain that we can make snow on. So when we put in the new pipes, we put in larger diameter pipes. These pipes, when we pump the water, because they’re larger diameter have less friction loss. For example, about two years ago I put in a 12-inch pipe that was about 600 feet long. We looked at the water flow through the pipe at full flow and we’re actually able to save about 200 horsepower of pumping power by adding that pipe and pumping the water through the larger pipe.

In 2009 we built the Crystal Spa, which is an 18,000-square-foot building, the Midwest’s first LEED certified spa. One of the things we’re able to do with the Crystal Spa is we’re actually able to conserve a lot of energy with it. The way we do that is we take the heat from the indoor pool facility that’s part of the spa. We keep the indoor pool air temperature at about 85 degrees. But we have to also exhaust that air and bring in fresh air. So before we exhaust it, we pull the heat out of it, and pump it into a heat exchanger loop, and we pump the heat down into the spa rooms. So that’s how we heat the spa rooms.

Another thing we did is we decided to replace some of the lighting in our conference facility, called the Crystal Center. The Crystal Center is a 33,000-square-foot building, and we built it in 1994. When we built it, we put in hundreds of 150-watt, dimmable incandescent lights. Then recently, about two years ago, we replaced all those lights with 13-watt, dimmable LED lights. Also we were actually able to save about 75,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year. And beyond the electricity savings, we’re able to save money on the changing of the light bulbs because they last about 10 or 15 times longer than a conventional light bulb. Also, when we changed out the light bulbs, they don’t generate as much heat. So our air conditioning system, we’re able to reduce the consumption of energy for cooling in the summer, that saved us additional money and energy. For example, just this one building, the energy savings in this building will power my Chevy Volt 250,000 miles a year on electricity, just from this one building and changing out the light bulbs. So it’s a huge savings. The payback on this, without any subsidies (our power company did give us some additional subsidies), but without any subsidies, the payback was about 9 months. Once you pay off the cost of installation, it keeps saving you year after year after year. It’s a tremendous benefit.

Well, we use a lot of LP gas here at Crystal Mountain. As a matter of fact, this last winter some of the load… We buy it in 10,000-gallon truckloads. We took one load, where LP gas was priced at about $40 a million BTU. Now, to put that into perspective, the normal price for natural gas is closer to about $7 or $8 per million BTU. So we have every incentive to reduce our consumption of LP gas. Probably one of the best ways to do that is to make sure your buildings are well insulated. For example, now we’re taking our old lodge that was built in 1960, originally, we’re remodeling the third floor. We put in a special… We broke it all the way down to the studs and were able to spray in a special insulation called icynene insulation that not only is a good insulator for its level of thickness, but it also reduces the air infiltration in a building. So we sprayed the walls with icynene. Then we’re also going to be putting spray batt insulation in the ceiling to really insulate the building. So we’re taking some of our old buildings and when we build a new building, we insulate it very heavily. That helps to reduce the consumption of propane.

There are physical changes that we’re making here in reducing our energy consumption that help our business. And it goes beyond our business to our employees who, you know, take some of these same conversation principles home. But it goes beyond that with future generations who will also be able to enjoy the natural resources that we have today.

jim MACINNES

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Jim MacInnes

President and Co-owner of Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa

#1 – Energy, Money and the Economy

#2 – The Second Half of the Age of Oil

#3 – Energy Return on Energy Invested and Net Energy

#4 – Energy Conservation and the First Law of Thermodynamics

#5 – Energy, Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

#6 – Energy – Prosperity, Security and the Environment

#7 – Is Oil Based Economic Growth Really Sustainable

#8 – Greening the electric power supply 9 21 11 doc

#9 – A Case for Large Wind in Michigan

jim MACINNES

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

#1 – Energy, Money and the Economy

#2 – The Second Half of the Age of Oil

#3 – Energy Return on Energy Invested and Net Energy

#4 – Energy Conservation and the First Law of Thermodynamics

#5 – Energy, Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

#6 – Energy – Prosperity, Security and the Environment

#7 – Is Oil Based Economic Growth Really Sustainable

#8 – Greening the electric power supply 9 21 11 doc

#9 – A Case for Large Wind in Michigan

Jim MacInnes – Social Traps

Friday, November 5th, 2010
Transcript:

energy-101.org : Before we even relate it to energy, do people in groups always act in their own best self interest, and why not?

Jim : Well, I think a lot of people don’t act in their own best interest, and they think too short term. They don’t consider the long-term consequences. And they get themselves involved in what are called social traps. Basically a social trap is a negative situation where people and organizations, or even societies, get caught in a direction or a relationship that may later prove to be unpleasant or lethal. And they really see no way to get out or avoid it.

energy-101.org : What’s the basic setup here? Why don’t they? You’ve defined it. What are some of the ways they act otherwise?

Jim : Well, here’s an example: smoking. I mean I think there’s an awful lot of information out there that smoking causes death over time and causes a lot of pain to your body, and it gets expensive and all that. But yet some people still choose to smoke because they enjoy the short term benefits of smoking, and also there’s an addiction factor. But they keep doing it still knowing that in the long run, it could take years off their life.

energy-101.org : Give me an example of, you know, let’s relate this to energy. Let’s try to relate to this whole idea of long term versus short term.

Jim : I think a good example, as it relates to energy, is our country’s addiction to oil. We have, for many years, tried to wean ourselves off of oil and switch to other energy sources, but we’ve been unable to do that. We keep focusing on the short-term lower cost of oil, recognizing to switch to other energy sources is going to be a bit more expensive but better for us in the long run. We’re unwilling to spend the extra money now to make us better off in the future and less dependent on foreign oil.

energy-101.org : You, as a business person, how do you try to avoid this trap of short term versus long term thing?

Jim : Yes, as a business person, I always try to avoid that trap of short-term and long term thinking, short term versus long-term thinking. One way we’ve done that is we recognize that we have finite resources of land here at Crystal Mountain. As we’ve developed that land, we’ve taken the profits from that land development and put it into our operations to help fund an annuity stream of operational profits that will last us over time and be sustainable. When you think about energy and oil, we have finite fossil fuel resources that we ought to be taking the profits of those and investing those in renewable resources so that as we burn through the fossil fuels, we’ll have a sustainable energy supply.

Jim MacInnes – Full Cost Accounting

Friday, November 5th, 2010
Transcript:

energy-101.org : What is full cost accounting?

Jim : Full cost accounting is really a total accounting, much more than the actual outlays that one might make. It’s the hidden cost. It would be the externalities. It could be overhead and indirect costs. It could be past and future costs. And really what I would call a life cycle cost of a project or a product.

energy-101.org : Is my electric bill an accurate reflection of the cost of energy?

Jim : Well, all the costs of electricity are not really included in the electric bill because there are a lot of social costs, health costs, lost work-day costs. We have costs relating to climate change, which can be increased insurance costs or damage to property costs. And then you have the costs of all the subsidies for fossil fuels that power a lot of our energy production. So those costs are really spread throughout society through our taxes. So you don’t see those costs in our day-to-day electric bill.

energy-101.org : Tell me a little bit more about this idea of not accounting for the idea of carbon in the transaction.

Jim : Well, as I think most people know, when you burn carbon, you put that carbon into the atmosphere and into the carbon cycle, and it stays there for hundreds of years. So that actually helps to make global climate change even worse. The result of that is that the atmosphere contains a lot more energy, a lot more heat, and the heat causes a lot more volatility in the climate. For example, you’ll have more snow events and heavy rain and severe weather events, which can cause a lot of damage to buildings and that sort of thing. So the insurance industry is watching this very closely, because they’re the ones that have to pay for damage due to weather. They’re going to have to actually increase their rates over time to be able to pay for these damages.

The other problem with climate change and warming the atmosphere is it’s causing the glaciers to melt and raising the level of the water of the ocean. Over time that’s going to cause a lot of problems because we have a lot of buildings and commercial structures and residential structures on the coasts, and those are going to become unusable basically. So there’s going to be a tremendous loss, economic loss there.

So really climate change has several severe economic penalties that we’ll all be paying.

energy-101.org : What’s a subsidy, and how are they used for the energy industry?

Jim : The fossil fuel industry is very heavily subsidized as identified by the International Energy Agency. And this is a result of tax breaks that the fossil fuel industry gets for drilling for oil or for natural gas, exploration, taking coal out of the ground. And really those subsidies are funded by all of us as tax payers.

Jim MacInnes – Externalities

Friday, November 5th, 2010
Transcript:

energy-101.org : Can you give me a really brief example of an externality that affects you right here where you live?

Jim : Well, I live in rural Northern Michigan where we don’t have a lot of industry. And I can tell you what happens in Gary, Indiana or Chicago, Illinois impacts the health of our people living in this community. According to the EPA, Benzie County is a non-attainment area for ozone. And that’s caused by nitrous oxide and volatile organic chemicals being at the ground level. Ozone is a very good thing to have in the atmosphere. It’s not good to have it ground level. So when you’re bicycling or running or swimming, you can feel the smog in your lungs; you can feel it in your eyes. Obviously those kinds of things, particularly for people that might not be as healthy, they can affect their health and cause them to have to go to the hospital and deal with asthma and problems. So that’s an example or an externality. An externality is really a spill-over cost or benefit that’s not really included in the price of something. It would be incurred by someone who is really not involved by the transaction of something. Like for example, if you were to buy electricity, it would be another person who would be impacted, who is maybe not involved in the electricity transaction. It could be a positive externality or a negative externality.

I think a good example of a positive externality might be if you lived next door to someone, and they fix up their house, and they create gardens in their yard, and you’re the next door neighbor. They create a beautiful place, and it positively affects the neighborhood. So you’re the next door person, and that could affect the value of your property.

But the externalities that we really need to focus on in terms of energy would be the negative externalities. An idea of the negative externalities could be, for example, the health costs that are incurred by burning coal. Actually from a coal plant, there are a lot of externalities and impacts. They could include hospital admissions. They could include lost work days, heart attacks, that sort of thing. And actually there’s a study called the Toll from Coal, which identifies that existing coal plants have caused probably about 100 billion dollars a year in externalities. And these would be, for example, 20,400 heart attacks, 1.6 million lost work days each year, 9,700 hospital admissions. Of course you could put a value on each of those. I was reading a study recently where they tested 265 streams in the US. They tested the fish in the stream for mercury, and 100% of the fish tested showed that they had mercury, 66% of which were over the EPA limits. And this would be caused primarily from the burning of coal and the mercury that gets into the streams and lakes of our country.

energy-101.org : Why don’t we have the coal plant pay for all of these costs? We charge people… We’re paying for the electricity, and they’re running the coal plant. Why doesn’t the coal plant pay for all these things?

Jim : Well, the way that our pricing mechanism is set up, the price of these externalities is really not included in the cost of electricity. And I think a lot of people don’t want to see their costs, their direct costs go up, because those are paid directly by the energy user. Where these other costs are more socialized, and they’re paid by all of us. They’re kind of hidden costs.

Jim MacInnes – Entropy

Friday, November 5th, 2010
Transcript:

energy-101.org : Why don’t you give me the basic definition of entropy in that second sense, the statistical version? Give me a sense of what you mean by entropy. How does that relate to this whole idea of energy and what we buy and what we live with?

Jim : Well, entropy is basically a concept of science and physics. It talks about things going from a high order to a low order, or high energy to low energy. We have a business here, and if you were to just let it go and not maintain it, it would go to a high level of…It would be disorder, go to a high level of disorder. So one thing we have to do is we have to keep putting money and energy into our business, into our buildings, our chair lifts, all of our equipment in order to keep it maintained. And so it takes energy to do that.

energy-101.org : So why do you feel like that’s an important concept for people to understand?

Jim : Well, I think it’s important because all of the physical things that we have are degrading. If you were to leave a building alone, or anything alone, over time it will degrade. And so we have to use some of our limited energy supplies in order to just keep things maintained at status quo. And if you have fossil fuels, which are finite resources, we’re going to have to keep calling on those fossil fuels and using them and putting them into the machinery, equipment, and buildings that we already own just to keep them current and updated and operating properly.

Jim MacInnes – Distributed Generation

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

Okay, distributed generation would be small power generators that could be located at individual homes or businesses located all throughout small communities and rural areas. Many, many smaller types of generation wind energy, solar, photovoltaic, just a variety of different types of distributed energy that are all throughout the edge of the power grid. And this would be as opposed to the major power plants, very large utility style power plants that are located in just a few areas throughout the grid.

Jim MacInnes – Energy Crisis

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:  (2009.10.03)

To me as the CEO of a company, the term “energy crisis” means either, we can’t get enough energy to operate our business or the cost of the energy is so high that we can’t operate profitably over the long term. And so we will go out of business. Another factor is whether or not our customers can afford to come to our business, to drive here, because a lot of our customers come from a distant area. And with peak oil and some of the issues that we are dealing with in the world, in terms of oil depletion and high oil prices, I could easily see that happening in the next few years.

Jim MacInnes – Tough Questions (2009.10.03)

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
Video Transcript:

I think the hard questions are, how are we going to break this gridlock in getting things done?  We have a lot of work ahead of us.  We have a lot of opportunity and potential with renewable technology.  But we have so many, we’ve created such a bottleneck in so many ways, to get things done, that we’re basically frozen.  And I think we need to be asking the hard questions about, how do we clear up this bottleneck?  How do we get things moving?  How do we really get renewable energy integrated into our lifestyle and the power grid on an aggressive basis, so that we can overcome some of the problems that we’re going to see, probably, as a result of peak oil and some of the other issues?