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This one-of-a-kind power system is propelling Snowbird through its deepest winter yet

Apr 5, 2023, 6:31 AM | Updated: Jan 5, 2024, 2:58 pm

An undated image of the Snowbird Power Systems facility at Snowbird Resort. The resort is self-powe...

An undated image of the Snowbird Power Systems facility at Snowbird Resort. The resort is self-powered by the cogeneration facility, which recently won a national award for exemplary engineering. (Photo: Snowbird Resort)

(Photo: Snowbird Resort)

SALT LAKE CITY — Snowbird Resort on Tuesday officially broke its all-time record for total snowfall, surpassing the previous record of 783 inches. More snow has meant higher avalanche danger and more interlodge events — a time when avalanche danger is so high that ski areas shut down access to the slopes and order skiers to take shelter in buildings.

Luckily for Snowbird, and the thousands of skiers who make the often treacherous drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon to surf a seemingly endless supply of powder, the resort is self-powered by a cogeneration facility that recently won a national award for exemplary engineering.

Snowbird Power Systems, designed by Utah-based VBFA Engineering in 2021, is a 5.3-megawatt cogeneration system that’s 60% more efficient than Snowbird’s original cogeneration facility that started running in 1986. VBFA last week announced that its work designing the system earned a National Recognition Award for engineering achievement in the American Council of Engineering Companies’ 56th annual Engineering Excellence Awards.

The new system was long overdue.

“The old plant ran for nearly 300,000 hours (while its expected operational life was 120,000 hours), wrote Sara Sherman, communications manager for Snowbird Resort, in an email to KSL.com. “While it could have continued to run even longer, this upgrade was one of the strongest ways we improve our environmental footprint and align with our Play Forever goals.”

When it came time to upgrade the facility, VBFA president emeritus Kim Harris, who was part of the VBFA team that worked on Snowbird’s 1986 and 2021 cogeneration facilities, said there were some challenges in doing so.

“What was really difficult was (that) the original plant was designed as a steam system, and those engines no longer are manufactured by Caterpillar so they had to go to hot water,” Harris said. “They wanted to increase the (electrical generation) capacity, and there was not sufficient room in the existing building to put the new plant. And furthermore, they couldn’t just shut it down, tear it out and put in something new — that system had to continue to function electrically and thermally.”

Please read Logan Stefanich’s full story at KSL.com.

Also read: Interlodge order issued for Alta

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This one-of-a-kind power system is propelling Snowbird through its deepest winter yet