Time to get serious about alternate energy 

By Tim Bradner in the Anchorage Daily News: It’s time to get serious about alternative energy for the Railbelt, the Southcentral-Interior corridor of the state’s largest communities. The regional power grid is mostly dependent on natural gas, and the gas wells are running out. If we don’t do something we’ll have to import liquefied natural gas, or LNG, within the next three years or so, possibly at more than twice what we pay now for gas. Not a pleasant thought.

Someday someone might find more gas in the Cook Inlet region or bring gas from the North Slope. I don’t see anyone out there drilling in the Inlet, though, and it will be years before gas can be piped from the Slope. That could cost as much as imported LNG too.

We have before us, however, a wind-power project on Fire Island in Cook Inlet just offshore from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It could be in construction next summer and supply enough electricity to push off the import of LNG for two to three years. Electricity supplied from wind to the electric utilities lets them reduce their use of natural gas, which stretches out supplies.

Wind power wouldn’t be really cheap, but Cook Inlet Region Inc., or CIRI, which is developing the project, says it will probably cost about what natural gas power will cost by the time the 33 wind turbines planned for the island begin turning in late 2012. It also would give the power utilities a chance to resolve the technical glitches of absorbing wind into the regional grid so that the bugs are worked out when other wind projects are built, like one planned by Golden Valley Electric Association near Healy. Read more

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