Geothermal energy heats up in King Salmon 

By Jill Burke of Alaska Dispatch: Nearly 300 miles south of Anchorage sits a small community where tribal members are descendants of villagers forced to flee an erupting volcano.  Nearly a century after those ancestors were chased away, King Salmon is the home base for an energy discovery tapping into the same forces that caused Mount Katmai to blow in 1912.

In a place best known for its world-class salmon runs, workers are currently in the process of capturing a different kind of catch. Each day, a drilling crew is lifting from a deep hole in the earth enough water to fill nearly 500 bath tubs, at temperatures hot enough to slow-cook spare ribs. In the geothermal world a 250-degree heat source isn’t exceptionally warm but it’s plenty warm enough to get the job done.

Converting the earth’s trapped heat into energy isn’t an earth-shatteringly new endeavor. But the project underway on the northern tip of the Aleutian Chain is a first for the state of Alaska. The geothermal wells Naknek Electric Association is drilling are a lead up to the first utility-grade geothermal plant in Alaska history. If successful, the plant is expected to dramatically decrease utility rates in the Bristol Bay region. At first only three communities will tie into the new power source — Naknek, South Naknek and King Salmon — but the ultimate goal is to connect all 28 villages in the Bristol Bay region to the alternative energy grid. Read more

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