Mountain Village greens its gondola with energy-efficient LED lighting

Relight Mountain Village

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

The Mountain Village gondola to Telluride is already a green machine: its existence keeps cars off the road and prevents an estimated 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide in vehicle emissions from entering the environment annually.

However, this spring the alpine resort community, Mountain Village, took their greening one step further by installing energy-efficient LED lighting throughout all gondola terminals, a project that is expected to reduce the electricity used for lighting by 70 percent and overall carbon emissions by another 100 tons per year.

“Many thanks to the Mountain Village gondola maintenance staff who worked diligently throughout the spring closure to install the new lighting in time for summer. As the region’s number one tourist attraction, the gondola serves 2.5 million riders every year and is an excellent opportunity to promote energy efficiency to our residents and guests alike,” said Deanna Drew, the town’s environmental services director.

The Town of Mountain Village was incorporated in 1996 to compliment the historic community of Telluride and to host the world-class Telluride Ski and Golf Resort. Moreover, it was always a vision of the original founders that the town be a pedestrian-friendly community where guests can leave their car behind and access the surrounding mountains by a free and environmentally-friendly public transportation system.

“The gondola is an integral part of the Mountain Village/Telluride lifestyle,” explained Drew. “It deserves to be as green as possible.”

Mountain Village hired longtime resident and energy-efficient lighting design expert Chris Myers from enLIGHTen of Telluride for the project. In total, 338 fixtures and bulbs were upgraded, which are estimated to reduce the gondola’s overall electricity by five percent and save over 100,000 kilowatt hours per year.

”The newer more inviting LED lighting not only saves electricity and reduces carbon emissions, it also improves the gondola appearance and experience,” said Myers. “It is really heartening to see our local governments take such strides in making intelligent decisions for saving energy and protecting our environment.”

The project cost approximately $30,000, with $12,000 reimbursed from San Miguel County through the Green Projects Grant Program, administered by EcoAction Partners, and another $10,000 in estimated rebates from San Miguel Power Association.

“The EcoAction Partners Green Projects Grant Program was funded by San Miguel County through a one-time energy use fee. All awarded projects measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and other innovative means. Once all projects are complete, over one billion pounds of carbon will be reduced for the lifespan of the projects, which is typically 20-plus years,” said Drew.

In 2014 the Mountain Village government reduced its overall energy use and greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent below 2010 levels, including a five percent reduction in gondola emissions. Before the grant and rebate are applied, the project has a simple payback period of 2.2 years and a 46 percent return on investment.