Related Posts for Alaska

By Mary Lochner | Anchorage Press— The Alaska Energy Authority is on its way to getting a license to build a hydroelectric dam on the Susitna River at Watana Creek, roughly 90 river miles northeast of Talkeetna.

Proponents of the dam say it will provide stable electricity rates for the Railbelt far into the future. Opponents charge it will cost too much in state money and impacts, and that there are better ways to provide for Alaska’s electricity needs.

Back in January 2009, then-Governor Sarah Palin was giving the Susitna-Watana dam its official raisons d’être. When she announced the state’s new goal of producing 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, there was no mention of a dam project. Environmentalists praised the decision. They might have been less enthusiastic if they’d realized the goal would be widely cited as justification for bringing a major hydroelectric project in Alaska.

“The only way we could ever achieve that goal would be to have big hydro,” said Joe Griffith, Matanuska Electric Association’s general manager and also president of a new cooperative of Railbelt electric utilities.

“Everyone was concerned we were going to run out of gas in Cook Inlet,” he said. “What better way to get something resolved than to start talking about renewable, because that was a vogue term and still is.”

Griffith said it was a goal advanced by the Palin administration, not the utility companies, but he thinks it was a sensible move.

Money had already been appropriated in the 2008 legislative session to study the feasibility of big hydro in Alaska. In 2009, state-hired consultants evaluated possible hydro projects at two sites: one on the Susitna River, and one at Chakachamna in the Cook Inlet.

The Susitna site won out, and initial cost-analysis and evaluation of the project, based on modeling from the 1980s when it was first explored by the state, was completed in November 2009.

In the same month, the Alaska Energy Authority released its draft Railbelt Regional Integrated Resources Plan, a guiding document for development of the electrical power system in the Railbelt. It included construction of a major hydro project.

But getting half the state’s electricity from renewables wasn’t the legally-adopted state energy policy until June 16, 2010, when Gov. Sean Parnell signed House Bill 306. A group of citizens, some representing renewable energy groups, contributed to the final version that passed in the State house and senate and was signed by Parnell. The bill’s language doesn’t explicitly call for the major hydroelectric project that would likely be necessary in order to achieve its energy policy goals.

Chris Rose, who was on the citizens’ group that worked on the bill, said he remembers discussion about whether or not hydro counts as renewable (it doesn’t in most states). But, he said, he doesn’t remember anyone talking about a major hydro project as a way to achieve the bill’s renewable energy goals.

“I would not say it was ever discussed,” said Rose, who is Executive Director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. “I don’t think it was what anyone contemplated, was the only way to get the 50 percent was a dam.”

But the policy is cited by the Alaska Energy Authority as the reason building the Susitna-Watana hydroelectric dam not only desirable for the state, but also necessary. AEA’s webpage on big hydro in the Railbelt states” “The only way to achieve the new goal of deriving 50 percent of our electricity from renewable and alternative sources is for a new, large hydroelectric project to be built in the Railbelt region.”

The state agency met in April 2011 with the Federal Regulatory Commission, the federal agency in charge of licensing the dam, to discuss moving the project forward. By July 14, 2011, Governor Parnell had signed Senate Bill 42, authorizing the state to pursue and construct the dam. In Dec. 2011, AEA filed its pre-application with FERC, putting the project officially in the pre-licensing process.

Wayne Dyok, project manager for Susitna-Watana, said his team plans to apply for the dam’s license with FERC in September 2015. Construction, once it begins, is expected to take about seven years, he said. Read more

By Kirsten Korosec | SmartPlanet— Alaska utility Kodiak Electric Association has aspirations to double the capacity of its wind farm project, which already provides nearly 10 percent of its power. To do that, KEA has to somehow bring stability to this sporadic source of power. Its answer: a battery farm.

Xtreme Power announced Tuesday an agreement with KEA to install a 3 megawatt battery storage and management system onto the Pillar Mountain Wind Project.  The 4.5 MW wind farm was completed in 2009. The rural utility decided last year to expand Pillar Mountain in an effort to wean itself off diesel-powered generation. But the intermittent nature of wind power on this scale can create grid instability issues, the electric cooperative noted in a release today. Ultimately, the electric cooperative wants 95 percent of its electricity to be generated by renewable energy by 2020.

Xtreme Power’s battery storage system, which has management software designed to control use and smooth out power fluctuations on the grid, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2012. Read more

The Republic | FAIRBANKS, Alaska — When the drone of a massive air compressor chugged to a halt Friday morning at a construction site near the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Jack Hebert said with a smile that it would be the last time any fossil fuel would be used there.

Hebert, the president of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, was joking — but not by much. CCHRC and UAF are joining together to build a new student housing complex with the experimental buildings that they believe will function year-round without burning any on-site oil.

Planners for the development, dubbed the Sustainable Village, unveiled designs Friday for four new buildings at the site near UAF’s lower campus. By using super-insulated buildings, solar heat systems and biomass, they hope the project will ultimately help a region struggling with high energy costs.

Planners behind the development are setting expectations high from the start. Hebert thinks the lessons learned from the Sustainable Village development could transform cold-weather home-building techniques.

“We want this to be a worldwide example of what can be done at this latitude, and I think we’ll accomplish that,” Hebert said.

The project is unusual not only for its ambitions, but for how it has developed. CCHRC sought design ideas from UAF students last fall, and the winning five-student team joined planners this winter to come up with a prototype for the development.

The more ambitious elements of the student design, such as a “living machine” that would treat wastewater with plants and micro-organisms, didn’t make it into the buildings that will go up this summer. But the basic layout for the homes — boxy designs with flat roofs, an outside deck and big, south-facing windows — was largely intact from the student blueprints.

They’ll be integrated with a heavily insulated envelope, a solar-hydronic heating system and, most likely, a pellet stove for a mid-winter boost. Two different types of foundations will be used, along with four different types of wall systems. A 14-kilowatt array of solar panels at the site was funded by a UAF sustainability grant. Read more

Alaska Dispatch– Three vessels from Tianchang, China, docked at the Port of Anchorage this week, the first visible step expected to lead to wind turbines on Fire Island contributing to Anchorage’s power grid.

For now, the wind turbines and related equipment will be stored at the port until all the ice is gone. Then a landing craft or barge will haul the equipment to Fire Island, where construction will get underway this summer. A company named Tetra Tech was the successful bidder to deliver 11 windmills for the Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) Fire Island Wind Project. The venture is the state’s first major power project owned by an independent power producer. Chugach Electric Association, Alaska’s largest electric utility, will buy the power.

Once construction of the turbines and undersea transmission lines are finished, the wind farm is expected to begin supplying power late this year. The Fire Island project is envisioned to eventually consist of 33 wind turbines able to generate 144,000 megawatts of electricity each year – estimated to be enough to supply 17,000 households. Read more

By Russell Stigall | Morris News Service-Alaska, Juneau Empire:  The state of Alaska has a relatively new law that requires a quarter of public buildings be 15 percent more efficient by 2020.

“Ten to 20 percent is the low hanging fruit,” Jonathan Westeinde, founder of Windmill Development Group Ltd. said. “We should look at 40 to 50 percent improvements.”

Westeinde said the state’s energy goals are a great step forward, but that larger goals could be met easily, he said. “Could we be doing more? Are we missing the opportunity to make more money?” Westeinde said.

The House Energy Committee invited Westeinde to present his “Making the Business Case for Energy Efficiency” talk at a lunch-time learning session, March 27.

Westeinde’s said his goal was to start up the greenest new development firm in Canada.

A current project of Westeinde’s is the highest LEED rated building in the world, he said. “And we’ve been about to do this while still making the same amount of money as anybody else. If anything we can make more money, if done properly.” Read more

By Dave Donaldson | APRN – Juneau, Alaska:  The House also today authorized a five year extension of the Renewable Energy Grant fund. In continuing the program, it also informally agreed to contribute $50-million a year to projects fitting into the Fund’s requirements.

Finance Co-Chair Bill Thomas (R-Haines) told members that the Fund has distributed $176.6-million since it was first set up in 2008. And twenty one projects have been completed. He cited the Gustavus Hydro for saving twenty seven cents a kilowatt hour, Cordova Humpback Creek hydro for saving more than ten cents a kilowatt hour, and Kodiak Pillar Mountain for saving more than fourteen cents – reducing the sale of diesel fuel by some ten million gallons statewide last year.

Anchorage Republican Charisse Millet was the Energy Committee co-chair when the program was restructured in 2010. She says Renewable Energy has had phenomenal success in rural Alaska.

Sometimes we talk about if this program’s going to last or if we can sustain that program.   This is one that we should continue to fund.  It has done great things for communities all over.  And I think, really emphasizing displacing diesel is the key because that’s what we really started this bill to do back when we started the conversation.

Anchorage Democrat Les Gara said Alaska stands far above other states with energy conservation – saying the Grant Program benefits urban and rural residents.

We know the price of fossil fuels is getting more and more expensive.  No matter which one of us has the most brilliant idea on bringing oil and gas at cheaper rates to our consumers, those prices are likely rising. Renewable energy stays the same price forever in most cases.  It might start a little high, but ten years from now it’s the same price.  And twenty years from now it’s the same price.  Because wind doesn’t get more expensive.  Read more

By Ian Larsen of Sun Star Reporter: Money is power. At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, power is power. In Alaska it’s easy to take the state’s vast resources for granted, but thanks to the newest building on campus, UAF researchers will learn how to maximize those researchers. The Geophysical Institute and the Alaska Center for Energy and Power developed the soon-to-open Energy Technology Facility.

“Alaska has more fossil and renewable energy resources than any other state in the nation,” according to the ACEP website. “Alaska has the potential for long-term sustainable energy production through development of its natural gas, coal, oil, hydropower, tidal, geothermal and wind resources to meet the energy needs of the state and beyond.”

UAF built the facility to use these vast amounts of renewable energy and house the projects. 

The ACEP team will celebrate the grand opening of the new Energy Technology Facility with a ribbon cutting at 5:30 p.m. Feb 15. ACEP will introduce researchers and the current energy projects that are in development.

This facility is located across from the Lola Tilly Commons and will allow ACEP to to house many of their projects on campus.

“We have research projects all over the state,” ACEP Director Gwen Holdmann said. “Battery research is done at Golden Valley, we have some wind energy research projects and hydrokinetics projects in rural areas.”

The facility will allow ACEP and other university researchers to easily perform large energy projects such as waste recovery, diesel fuel efficiency, advance-technology batteries, rural-community-scale power and wind-diesel technology. Through this research ACEP will be able to find cheaper and more sustainable ways to power Alaska.

The project broke ground last fall, and in less then a year the building is about to open for research. Read more

By Hal Spence of The Homer News: Waves and tidal currents off Alaska’s coastline would generate more than 850 terawatt-hours of electrical energy annually if fully developed, according to two reports recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Much of that potential lies untapped in the waters of the Cook Inlet region, a location already under study by hydrokinetic energy companies.

Federal resource assessments of the national coastline show wave action and tidal streams could “contribute significantly” to and diversify the country’s energy supply, according to a Jan. 19 Department of Energy press release. That clean and renewable energy, when combined with conventional hydropower and other water resources, “can potentially provide 15 percent of our nation’s electricity needs by 2030,” the DOE said.

The two federal reports, “Mapping and Assessment of the U.S. Ocean Wave Energy Resource,” and “Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the U.S.,” represented “the most rigorous analysis” yet of the nation’s ocean energy resources, DOE said.
One company already engaged in developing hydrokinetic resources in Cook Inlet under permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is Ocean Renewable Power Co., or ORPC, which has partnered with Homer Electric Association.

The two companies are engaged in monitoring the inlet environment and assessing and characterizing a site off Nikiski in the East Forelands area of the inlet.

ORPC, which has been developing tidal power systems since 2004, hopes to produce power for the Railbelt electrical grid by 2014, said Doug Johnson, director of business development for the company. Plans announced early last year called for a 150-kilowatt pilot project to be up and running in the water in 2013. However, Johnson said, those plans were pushed back a year to allow ORPC to fully concentrate on powering up its first commercial-scale generation system this coming spring in Cobscook Bay, Maine.

“It will be our first fully grid-connected tidal generation system,” he said. “It will put us on the world stage as a pre-eminent energy company.” More

These GE turbines on Kodiak Island are the same kind that will be used on Fire Island.

Exciting news today about Fire Island Wind Project in Anchorage: Chugach Electric Association is expected to sign a Power Purchase Agreement today to buy power from the project (See story below). This wind power will cost us more in the short term, but over the long term the wind will be cheaper as natural gas prices inevitably rise. Natural gas provides 90% of our electricity in Anchorage, and is already running in short supply. By adding wind power, we stabilize our energy costs over the long term by reducing our reliance on natural gas and because the cost of wind doesn’t vary like natural gas.

Want to know more:
Wind Power in Alaska: Nearly two dozen communities from Kasigluk to Delta Junction to Kodiak are already powering up with wind. Click the link to see Alaska’s other wind projects at a glance. For a quick overview of windpower in Alaska, click here

Unalakleet: Wind power is cranking in Unalakleet. Click the link to see the stats and turbines turning in real time.

Kodiak: Kodiak has the biggest turbines in Alaska. Last year, they produced enough power to save the utility $2.3 million in avoided diesel fuel costs. See the stats on how much power they’ve produced this year.

Cook Inlet Natural Gas Supply Chart: This chart is from a 2010 study done for Enstar, and shows that in 2014, natural gas supplies in Cook Inlet will dip below demand without new, expensive investment. See the full report by Petrotechnical Resources of Alaska.

Fire Island Wind Project Finds a Customer
By Patti Epler of Alaska Dispatch

Anchorage — The proposed Fire Island wind farm in Anchorage is moving closer to reality under a deal with Chugach Electric Association that would lock in the price of power for the next 25 years.

The Chugach board of directors is expected to approve a power purchase agreement at its meeting last Wednesday that would pay Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native corporation, 9.7 cents a kilowatt hour for power generated from the project. That’s about twice the cost of natural gas-generated power, but the cost of natural gas is going up, especially for Chugach, which relies heavily on Cook Inlet gas to supply electricity to its customers in Southcentral Alaska.

The board last week approved the terms and conditions for the deal, and was expected to approve the actual agreement this week.

CIRI’s board of directors will meet next week and is also expected to back the agreement, said CIRI spokesman Jim Jager.

It would then go before the Regulatory Commission of Alaska for approval, which might be a bit harder sell since the cost of the power is higher than consumers pay now. But Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, said the stability of the price over the long term is a strong selling point.

“Over the long term this is a good deal for consumers,” he said. Read more

Analysis by Tim Bradner for the Alaska Journal of Commerce: Despite its high costs, renewable energy is a good risk-management strategy for Southcentral Alaska electric utilities, which currently depend heavily on natural gas for power generation. The problem is natural gas reserves are running down, and the only near-term guaranteed fall-back is imported liquefied natural gas.<

It's not a good position to be in.

Renewable energy – wind, hydro and geothermal – can be expensive at the front-end but its key advantage, in the long run is that the fuel is free, Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, an advocacy group, told the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce April 25.

"Bradley Lake hydro is now the cheapest power in the Railbelt grid but it didn't look that way 20 years ago when the dam was built. At the time it didn't seem to pencil. It was expensive to build and natural gas was still cheap," Rose said.The state and the Railbelt utilities partnered to build the Bradley Lake dam near Homer anyway. Natural gas prices have since doubled from what they were 20 years ago but the cost of Bradley Lake hydro power has been stable and low, Rose said.

It didn't come up in the discussion at the chamber, but Cook Inlet Region Inc.'s planned $160 million Fire Island wind project and CIRI's difficulties in securing power sales agreements with local utilities, was clearly on peoples' minds at the chamber lunch.

Rose said he didn't want to talk about individual projects, but that his message is that the Railbelt needs a diversified basket of renewables to offset its overreliance on fossil fuels. Read more

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