New power plant breaks ground near Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Posted By: The Ski Channel on September 4, 2010 8:24 am

Kirkwood Meadows Public Utility District (KMPUD) recently announced that it has successfully closed on its sale of $5.5 million of Bond Anticipation Notes to fund the summer construction of a new power plant for the Kirkwood community and resort operations. Construction has been ongoing now for over a month and project managers expect the new building to be erected this fall in Kirkwood. The plant will be located immediately north of the former Mountain Utilities power plant that burned to the ground on January 1, 2010.

The proposed power plant is a new state of the art 10,000 square foot facility that will provide power to the entire Kirkwood community, ultimately resulting in the closure of a separate power generation facility being run to support the water, wastewater, fire and KMPUD operations. The new plant will have similar production capacity to what was destroyed in the fire, but will have world class air quality, generation, switching and distribution technology which will dramatically increase power quality and reliability while reducing particulate emissions by over 70% compared to the pre-existing conditions. All underground improvements will be completed by the fall and the plant will be operational in 2011.

The first phase of construction includes a significant amount of site work for the building and all of the underground work necessary to repair the circuits that were lost in the New Year’s Day fire. Kirkwood skiers will notice that the upper bay of parking at the Red Cliffs lots have been eliminated to make way for the new facility which will be nearly three times the size of the old plant and significantly more attractive. KMR has worked with the KMPUD to replace that parking with a new slope side lot located immediately east of the Red Cliffs cafeteria. The new lot will accommodate over three times what was lost in the land use swap.

The KMPUD, which is building the plant under an emergency permit from the Great Basin Air Quality Control District, had faced an appeal of the authority to construct in early July. The appeal was denied and construction resumed on the facility. As a result of the appeal, the plant has been designed for the anticipated changes in generation technology. The facility will be built as a prime diesel power plant but will be flexible enough to accommodate alternative fuels and future renewable energy options like wind and solar arrangements.

The KMPUD continues to pursue the opportunity to construct an interconnection between Kirkwood and Pacific Gas and Electric facilities that are part of the regional electric grid. Such a project would allow the Kirkwood community to tap into sources of renewable energy that are not available without this grid connection.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort is very pleased with the District’s efforts to move forward. “The KMPUD is a great partner in this effort and we are very encouraged by their progress to date. To design, permit and construct a complicated facility like this in this compressed timeframe is impressive. It makes a lot of sense to have municipal ownership of electric and gas assets in a small community like this and we have tremendous confidence their ability to add this to their current portfolio of infrastructure operations. The facility will be state of the art and will open up significant opportunities for our resort and real estate operations,” commented David Likins, CEO of Mountainsprings Kirkwood LLC.

Mountain Utilities will continue to manage electric and gas operations until the new plant is fully operational and executives are very happy with their interim operations. “The fact that we are replacing the distribution circuits this month that were lost in the fire is the key to improving our reliability. While we made it through last winter with a band aid approach, we will have full network redundancy and a switchable distribution system fully operational by October,” noted Wayne Amer, President of Mountain Utilities.

MU will operate off of 3516 Caterpillar modular power units until the new KMPUD facility is completed. According to Amer, the modular units are significantly more efficient and cleaner burning than the generation that existed prior to the fire. All the transformers, circuits and snowmaking facilities that were lost in the fire will also be replaced prior to the start of the season.

While the fire had impacts on the early January holiday business for the resort, the company seems to have made a full recovery, recently posting its best financial results ever.