Alaska utility says wind farm power cheaper than wholesale prices

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Alaska utility says wind farm power cheaper

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Golden Valley Electric Association says a wind farm near Healy could prevent increases in customer rates because it would likely produce cheaper power than wholesale prices the utility pays.

The proposed $93 million Eva Creek wind farm would be the largest in the state and could produce power for a full cent less than Golden Valley’s current wholesale price, which is about 10.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Kate Lamal, a vice president for the utility, said Tuesday during a presentation on plans for the wind farm that it should be able to deliver 9 megawatts of power.

Lamal also said years of data on wind patterns are strong enough to secure loans and a $2 million renewable-energy grant from the state has paid for studies of road access, bird migration patterns and integration with Golden Valley’s existing energy portfolio.

She said the utility plans to solicit bids to present to the board of directors this fall. Approval would let engineering advance this winter, road and foundation construction begin next summer, and turbine installation follow in 2012.

Joe Blanchard, a Borough Assembly member, said after the presentation that he supports the Eva Creek project while still considering himself among those who feel the state will fail to meet the Legislature’s green energy goals without investing in a large hydroelectric dam.

In April, the Legislature chose to set a target that Alaska will get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable and alternative sources within 15 years.

“But I think this is a good start,” Blanchard said.

Kat Keith, an applied wind-diesel specialist at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, said interest in wind power in Alaska is growing. The state hosts 19 wind projects; that number could grow to 25 or more in 2011, she said.

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