Microgrid Keeps Power Flowing at Remote Ski Resort

bear creek photo

Bear Creek is situated at the end of a utility power line, which places severe limits on how much power the local utility can deliver. The resort exceeded its 5 MVA cap on incoming power from the utility during a $100 million expansion.

Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Conference Center is located on more than 330 acres in scenic Berks County, Pennsylvania. Its out-of-the-way beauty provides an idyllic destination for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, fishing, and boating.

The remote setting that makes the resort so attractive also poses tremendous challenges for Bear Creek’s electrical system.

Client Microgrid Vision: Leverage existing energy infrastructure and distributed energy resources to support resort expansion and improve power reliability

The ski resort needs highly reliable power. Snow-guns, ski lifts, and other electrical equipment for its 21 trails, pools, hot tubs, restaurants, spas, and other amenities demand an always-on, year-round flow of electricity.

But the resort’s mountain top location makes it prone to lightning strikes that can cause power outages and voltage spikes.

In addition, Bear Creek is situated at the end of a utility power line, which places severe limits on how much power the local utility can deliver. In fact, the resort found that its electric demand began to exceed the line’s capacity after it embarked on $100 million in improvements, including the addition of a 65-room hotel and expanded ski slopes.

“We have a 5 megavolt amperes (MVA) cap on our incoming power from the utility, and anything more than that will cook the fuses on the utilities’ power lines down the road,” says Dustin Yeager, mountain electrician for Bear Creek. “As we continued to grow, we had massive new power requirements – mostly related to our snowmaking equipment – that we couldn’t keep under our 5 MVA cap.”

The Solution . . . Add Intelligence, Not Infrastructure
One solution was to upgrade the utility power line and add new electric infrastructure – but that would be costly.
So with the help of Schneider Electric, Bear Creek found a less expensive alternative that made use of the resort’s existing energy assets in a smarter way.

Schneider Electric added new intelligence to the system in the form of its microgrid and advanced power control solution. The controller allowed the resort to configure existing generators into a grid-connected microgrid. The resort had been using the six diesel generators, varying in size from 125 kilowatts (kW) to 1600 kW, for emergency back-up power.

Customer Benefits

  • More power to support expansion
  • Reliable and resilient power supply
  • Advanced flexibility and control
  • Demand response revenue

“It was a case of reusing existing infrastructure and adding a level of control that wasn’t there before. Bear Creek was able to get additional financial benefit without additional infrastructure costs,” said James Lee, national solutions sales engineer at Schneider Electric.

Schneider Electric’s microgrid control and power monitoring systems benefit Bear Creek in several ways: they not only helped the resort delay a costly power line upgrade, but also:

1. Help the resort better understand and manage its power resources
2. Allow it to participate in a revenue-producing energy market

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Using Schneider’s power monitoring system, Bear Creek gains real-time visibility into its energy use. If severe weather or lightening knocks out power to equipment somewhere on the mountain, Bear Creek can easily detect the problem and then repair it.

“It was a case of reusing existing infrastructure and adding a level of control that wasn’t there before. Bear Creek was able to get additional financial benefit without additional infrastructure costs,” said James Lee, national solutions sales engineer at Schneider Electric.

Insight, then Action
The monitoring system and software also helps the resort forecast energy use trends. The resort can recognize if power use is rising quickly, a sign that it may need to ‘shed load’ – remove certain facilities from utility power.

This is especially important in the winter when the resort needs to make snow – an energy intensive endeavor. Before the resort expanded, it only had the capacity to make snow on one trail at a time. Afterward, Bear Creek had 125 snow guns, enough to simultaneously make snow on most of the resort’s hills. Now, when snowmaking is underway, the facility’s power demand peaks. In addition, snowmaking requires a large supply of water, so Bear
Creek built a new electrically driven pump house in 2007, which created even more pressure on its power system.

bear creek“When we are running heavy snow-making loads, we are running almost 7.2 MVA, so essentially we needed a load-shedding sequence to keep us under our 5 MVA cap,” says Yeager.

If it appears the facility will exceed the utility cap, an alarm goes off and the system sends a command to automatically transfer to the generators.

“Our controller coordinates a few disparate systems and transitions loads off of utility power to self-generated power, based on priority steps. The least valuable buildings transition first,” Lee says.

Bear Creek has found the controller and power monitoring systems to be “invaluable,” Yeager says.

“It keeps us from going over our cap with the utility. Sometimes, in the course of making snow, our guys forget to turn on a generator to make up for the power they’re using when they turn on the pumps. Without the system, we’d go over our limit. But the monitoring software has a virtual meter in it that says when we hit 4.2 MVA, it will automatically kick on another generator to shed some of the increased load,” he says.

All of this occurs without disrupting the comfort or activity of the resort’s guests. There is no disruption in power as the microgrid controller does its work.

And Schneider’s microgrid solution goes a step further. It allows the resort to participate in the utility’s demand response program. When the grid is under strain, the utility sends a signal to the resort’s system, asking it to reduce demand. The microgrid controller shifts load over to the back-up generators. Bear Creek receives financial payment
from the utility for its participation in the demand response program. Those payments have ranged from $40,000 to over $100,000 annually, and are made possible because of Schneider Electric’s PowerLogicTM control system, which is “easily controlled by the click of a mouse and has a very high reliability factor,” Yeager says.

The Bottom Line
It is possible to avoid building new energy infrastructure by installing microgrid intelligence. And it may be possible to do so just by using the facility’s existing assets. This saves money and even opens the door to new revenue by way of participation in energy markets.

beer creek equiment

Project at a Glance

Location: Berks County, PA, USA

Project type: • 7.2 MVA microgrid • Supplements utility supply

Properties: Remote ski resort with 65-room hotel and 20+ ski trails

Project details: • 6 diesel generators • Advance power monitoring and controls

Demand response revenue: • Up to $100,000 annually

See more examples here of how Schneider Electric’s customers are innovating with microgrids.

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Comments

  1. I see how it works now. I am always curious how power works on ski resorts.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Conference Center in Pennsylvania offers an example of a microgrid that was designed to improve economics. The ski resort is at the end of a utility power line, so its electric supply from the grid is limited. This created a problem when the facility decided to expand and add snow machines. The resort faced steep financial penalties for use of peak power.  The microgrid now allows it to shed and shift load, creating significant cost savings.  (See case study.) […]

  2. […] hotels, airports and railways. For off-grid, mining is the leading industrial application, but resorts are also growing in appeal on the commercial side, he […]

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