Mt. Ashland going solar

A portion of Mt. Ashland Ski Area's electricity will soon be provided by the sun's rays.

The facility plans to install 85 solar panels on the roof of the ski park's vehicle shop roof, located near the main parking lot. Mt. Ashland will contribute $25,000 to the $117,000 project, with the rest paid for through grants from Pacific Power's Blue Sky Program and the Energy Trust of Oregon. True South Solar in Ashland will begin installation next week.

"It's been in the works for quite awhile," Mt. Ashland General Manager Hiram Towle said of the project. "The organization's been looking to be leaders on the environmental front, and energy is one of those areas. It's a really good solar site."

Mountain officials say the project will offset about 12 percent of the park's energy use. Peak energy use is during the winter months, when solar power generation is lower, but Towle said the system will be tied into the power grid through a net-metering agreement with Pacific Power, meaning the ski area will receive credits for power it generates in other seasons but doesn't use for its operations.

The project is expected to generate 39,000 kilowatt hours annually, Towle said. True South Solar project manager Shawn Schreiner said the 327-watt panels measure 42 inches by 62 inches each.

Generated electrical power will go toward heat in the buildings, lights and chairlifts. But with electrical costs that fit in to a total daily budget of about $8,600 in operations costs when the ski area is up and running, much of the electrical power will still need to be generated off-site.

"We don't have the means to replace the entire system," Towle said.

That said, ski area officials said there are plans for additional solar panels somewhere down the line. Additional details are not yet available.

"The problem is where we put them. We definitely want to minimize visual impact," Towle said.

The installation is one of several components of off-season work following the ski area's successful 2015-16 winter season. The resort was open 88 days and recorded nearly 69,000 visits, putting the facility back in the black.

Additional summer work on the mountain has included painting, light construction, dispersal of seeds, trash pickup and erosion control on trails. Additional work party dates for more slope work are set for mid-August and mid-September.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

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