Gustavus silences diesel generators with hydro
July 20, 2010
REAP note: Before switching to hydro, Gustavus was burning about 20,000 gallons of diesel a month.
By Craig Medred of Alaska Dispatch: FALLS CREEK — At the end of a three-mile road to nowhere, on the southern edge of one of North America’s wildest national parks, the sound of a clean, environmentally friendly energy future is drowned out by the noise of a gurgling salmon stream. Just feet to the side of that stream, a hydroelectric turbine for Gustavus Electric Inc. spins in a small metal building not much bigger than a farmland garage.
Any day, salmon will start spawning in the gravels beside the power plant which takes its water from behind a 12-foot cement wall high above two towering waterfalls on a creek that headwaters in the Fairweather Mountains of Glacier Bay National Park, then diverts that water 600 feet downhill through about two miles of buried pipe to generate electricity before putting the water back into the stream at the upper limit of where salmon spawn.
The dream of electrical engineer Dick Levitt, the project is about as environmentally friendly as man can get. There is no towering dam cutting off passage to fish. There are no spinning windmill blades to kill birds. There are no banks of solar cells covering the floor of a valley. And there is, because of this project, no longer an exhaust-spewing diesel generator burning costly fossil fuels in the 400-plus community of Gustavus with a summer population at least twice that. Read more