KILLINGTON- Live cows greeted skiers and riders at the K-1
Express Gondola, Saturday, Nov. 24 as part of a celebration of the
gondola's energy source: cow power. Killington Resort and Green
Mountain Power invited guests to learn about how the resort is
working with GMP and local Vermont farms to convert methane gas
from cow manure to electricity, which is needed to spin the
The cows were brought on site by one of the participating farms,
Blue Spruce Farm in Middlebury.
Staying with Vermont tradition of
buying local, the K-1 Express Gondola is powered solely by manure
from local dairy farms. In the process, this reduces greenhouse
emissions produced by cows and expands the use of the readily
available, renewable resource in Vermont. Through Green Mountain
Power, Killington Resort has purchased 300,000 kilowatt hours of
Cow Power to run the K-1 Express Gondola year round.
So how exactly will Killington Resort power a gondola with cow
manure? The power actually comes from methane, a flammable gas that
is a major part of natural gas, released from manure as it
decomposes. Farms collect cow manure throughout the day, mixing it
with wash water from the milking equipment which is then pumped
into an anaerobic digester. The slurry flows through a digester for
about three weeks at 100°F allowing bacteria to convert the manure
into biogas, about 60% methane gas and 40% carbon dioxide.
The biogas is then delivered to a modified natural gas engine,
which drives an electric generator to create electricity. Finally,
the energy generated is fed onto the GMP electrical system which
ultimately powers the K-1 Express Gondola.
The left over manure in the digester does not go to waste; it is
separated into solid and liquid portions. The liquid portion is
used as enhanced fertilizer and the solids, consisting of plant
fibers including grass, corn stalk fibers, grain hulls, etc. can
replace sawdust as bedding for the cows.
One cow produces over 30 gallons of manure a day, GMP reports.
Now, multiply that by 1,000, the number of cows on a typical Cow
Power farm. That's a lot of cow poop!
Currently, 13 Vermont farms,
with roughly 10,000 total dairy cows producing 300,000 gallons of
manure per day, participate in the GMP Cow Power program and are
compensated for their electric generation and the related
According to the US Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) the decomposition of cow manure produces 7
percent of the United States' methane, a gas that is 20 times more
powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the
However, the process of converting cow manure into renewable
energy prevents this harmful methane from reaching the atmosphere.
This is an important benefit as methane on dairy farms accounts for
the majority of agriculture's greenhouse gas emissions. According
to Sustainable Conservation, a non-profit group based in
California, "If methane digesters were installed on most California
dairies, they would protect the climate as much as taking more than
one million cars off the road - about 5% of the state's total."
So, not only does the K-1 Express Gondola use a local, renewable
source for electricity, but it lessens the amount of greenhouse
gases release into the atmosphere. Good for the environment, good
for local farms and good for the keeping snow on the mountain!
In addition to the Cow Power program, Killington Resort also
offsets 100 percent of the power used at Killington Resort with
Renewable Energy Credits (RECs.)
Photo by Chandler Burgess courtesy of Killington Resort