An effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California’s Olympic Valley will get a boost from Tesla, one of the most recognizable names in renewable energy.
Power provider Liberty Utilities plans to install enough Tesla batteries to supply the valley’s energy needs for four to six consecutive hours.
While Tesla is largely known for luxury electric cars and iconoclastic co-founder Elon Musk, the company is seeking to expand its range further into stationary power grid storage projects.
Under the Olympic Valley Microgrid Project plan, Liberty will install the batteries near the top of the Gold Coast funitel at Squaw Valley Ski Resort. The storage plan will need approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission and Placer County before installation.
The battery plan coincides with a separate effort by the resort’s owners to make Squaw Valley and the surrounding community 100 percent powered by renewable energy by the end of the year.
The batteries will help by providing a backup option during outages and in assisting efforts to smooth out fluctuations in the electrical grid.
“Our customers have continuously told us they want safe, reliable and clean energy,” said Greg Sorensen, the utility’s west region president. “The time to move to renewables is now, not generations from now.”
The Olympic Valley batteries would be supplied by Tesla, owned by Liberty Utilities and reside on property owned by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings.
Sorensen joined Tesla co-founder J.B. Straubel, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings president and CEO Andy Wirth and Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, a non-profit tourism boosting organization.
“You can’t get to 100 percent renewables without (storage),” Straubel said.
In addition to discussing plans to use Tesla batteries for power storage on the mountain, the group discussed the broader plans to power Olympic Valley entirely with renewable energy from renewable sources, such as Liberty’s 50-megawatt solar facility near Luning, Nev.
Under that plan Liberty Utilities agrees to add projects that produce enough energy using renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass or hydropower to supply the amount consumed by Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows resorts and other Olympic Valley customers.
The renewables plan is expected to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with powering the resort and neighboring properties by nearly 6,400 metric tons annually.
That’s about the equivalent of taking 1,370 cars off the road.
The reduction is significant because greenhouse gases produced from burning fossil fuels are the primary cause of human-induced global warming.
While warming increases the risk of everything to coastal flooding to reduced drinking water availability in some regions, it also threatens the viability of winter sports tourism in places such as Lake Tahoe.
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“As somebody who works very closely with Mother Nature, we are very tuned in to the vagaries and realities of climate change,” Wirth said. “We have certainly seen that here in this region, warm dry winters, violent winters like we saw last year.”
Beteta compared the renewable energy effort to the launch of the “Keep Tahoe Blue,” campaign that started more than 50 years ago.
“Our future begins and ends with conservation,” Beteta said.
She said tourism is responsible for $126 billion in spending in California and visitors prefer destinations that minimize harm to the environment.
“People who are thinking about visiting destinations are now looking at destinations that are sustainable because people want to make their footprint as light as possible,” she said.
For Tesla, the Olympic Valley project would be a high-profile showcase for the utility-grade storage battery products it makes alongside Panasonic in the company’s Nevada Gigafactory.
Tesla already has storage projects in American Samoa, Hawaii, Australia and Southern California. Tesla and Liberty are also working on a storage project in Alpine County, Calif., which could improve reliability in Markleeville.