Yakutat looks to wave power as relief to high power costs
November 18, 2013
By Elwood Brehmer | Alaksa Journal of Commerce: When Bill Staby first arrived in Yakutat he drew a quick realization from a small tube of toothpaste on a store shelf: life in Yakutat is expensive. The toothpaste was $4.
“Not only did I think, ‘gee, that’s really expensive,’ but I wondered how many of these the shopkeeper needs to sell to pay the light bill, to keep the place warm,” Staby said. “It was a very visceral kind of thing.”
That trip to the isolated coastal community of about 650 residents was in February 2012. As CEO of Boston-based Resolute Marine Energy, Staby was in Yakutat to evaluate the viability of harnessing wave energy for electricity production.
While countless communities dot Alaska’s seemingly endless coastline, Yakutat is one of the only to have an unobstructed view of open-ocean without the restriction of seasonal ice from its locale on the Gulf of Alaska. That, combined with other factors, led Staby to conclude that Yakutat is primed for wave power.
Alaska Energy Authority’s Alan Baldivieso came to a similar conclusion as Staby.
“Yakutat is far and away the best place to do a wave project if we’re going to do one,” in Alaska, Baldivieso said.
He manages hydrokinetic and emerging energy technology projects for AEA, and the Yakutat project is both. Hundreds of miles of open water, or fetch, in the Gulf provides consistent and predictable wave action near-shore. Subsequently, Yakutat is also one of the epicenters for surfing in Alaska.
The leading “other factor” is the cost of diesel, or fuel oil, generated power in the town, which in late October was going for 53 cents per kilowatt-hour, or kWh. By comparison, Anchorage’s Municipal Light and Power was charging 14 cents per kWh, and electricity from Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks was 20 cents per kWh for small users.