Utah Olympic Training Facilities Go for Gold with the Help of Solar

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Two Olympic training facilities in Utah install solar to help offset costs and better train their athletes. With grants from Rocky Mountain Power and Salt Lake County, the facilities are able to offset the upfront cost and realize immediate savings.

Home to the winter Olympics in 2002, Salt Lake City has a number of world-class training facilities. One can imagine that to train for years on end takes intense dedication, but what people probably do not think about is the costs involved in training an athlete. The total cost for a single athlete can top $50,000 annually.

This is why training facilities have been looking for ways to save money. Anything they are able to save equates to dollars they can spend to better train their athletes. With Rocky Mountain Power and First Wind bringing several large-scale solar projects to Utah recently, it made sense for training facilities there to look into solar. Thanks in part to grants from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program, the USSA Center for Excellence and the Utah Olympic Oval have recently been able to go solar.

U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Center of Excellence – Park City, Utah

The next winter olympics do not roll around again until 2018. This seems like a long ways off to most people, but if you’re someone like U.S. snowboarder Jackie Hernandez, it feels like it is just around the corner. Jackie is training for the games at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah.

As reported by the Deseret News, earlier this year, the center was outfitted with 126 solar panels, which have a capacity of 36 kW and will save the Ski and Snowboard Association up to $8,000 per year. The system was made possible by Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program, which awarded the association $112,500 in 2013 for the panels.

The 85,000-square-foot center was built in 2009 to offer athletes physical therapy, trainers, and nutritionists to help them become successful. “There is a lot more that goes into it that people don’t understand. It’s super important to be fit physically and mentally, and there’s definitely a lot that plays into being No. 1,” said Hernandez to the Deseret News.

The solar panels are expected to produce enough electricity each year to power up to six Utah homes. Worthington told the Deseret News that the grant from the Blue Sky Program is an eco-friendly and economically generous step forward. “It’s really important to us to support renewables and reduce our carbon footprint.… For every dollar saved, this will reduce our utility bill and for every dollar saved that means more money for athletics and developing Olympians,” Worthington said.

The solar panels on the roof of the Excellence Center are expected to last through 2064, giving as much as $400,000 back to athletes through the next 12 Olympics. “Being able to be here with all the other athletes, it’s exciting. It’s way more fun,” Hernandez said to the Deseret News. “We are very fortunate to have this place here.”

The Utah Olympic Oval – Kearns, Utah

With nine world records in speed skating associated with it, the Utah Olympic Oval has become known for the “Fastest Ice on Earth.” It was built in 2001 and has since transformed from a high-performance competition venue to a community recreational resource and Olympic training center.

The overhead of keeping an Olympic-sized ice arena running is huge. As reported by the Deseret News, the annual electric bill of the Olympic Oval tops out at over $750,000. To help offset some of this cost, a 3,000-panel solar system is being installed on parking canopies at the facility. It is expected to generate more than 1 million kWh annually and save the center $100,000 yearly.

Much of the $1.4 million cost of the solar-paneled canopies being installed above parking spaces is being paid for through a $564,000 grant from Rocky Mountain Power and $200,000 from Salt Lake County. The system is expected to pay for itself within 5 years and save up to $3.7 million over its 20-year lifespan.

Colin Hilton is president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, which is responsible for maintaining 2002 Winter Games competition sites. He said the the project will help extend the life of the foundation’s endowment, established with profits from the 2002 Olympics, by reducing the subsidy needed by the oval.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams said the oval provides recreational opportunities for families throughout the area as well as hosting national and international speed-skating competitions. “It’s a regional facility. We’re sending the message today that we are committed to maintaining this facility as a world-class Olympic facility,” McAdams said to the Deseret News. “If the Olympics come back to Utah, this facility is ready to go.”