Articles from Alaska
Most people assume wind power is the cheapest, greenest power Golden Valley Electric Association generates. But if wind power is not carefully balanced with other power sources, it can drive up your electric bill — as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Golden Valley Electric Association officials said the electric co-op has denied a request for interconnection from Delta Wind Farm which proposed construction of a 13.5 megawatt wind farm in the Delta Junction area. GVEA officials said the proposal was rejected because an additional wind farm would be a greater expense to the co-op and its customers.
Delta Wind Farm President and CEO Mike Craft is taking the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to court. Craft is asking a judge to overturn the commission’s approval of a Golden Valley Electric Association tariff filed last summer. He claims the tariff violates new state regulations intended to help renewable-energy projects — like his access the grid.
The independent power producer had to cancel construction and shipping contracts that would have added 11 wind turbines to Anchorage’s Fire Island ...after Alaska Railbelt utilities declined to purchase the company’s power following two years of negotiations.
An electrical blowout at one of the large wind turbines northwest of town has put the machine out of commission, effectively reducing Nome’s wind energy by a third.
That leaves 15 of the original 18 wind turbines at the Banner Wind Farm still standing. “One was destroyed during first the winter. One had delaminated blades. A then a third one was taken down and used for parts. And now this one.”
In the years since, Craft has worked to convince GVEA to use his expanded wind farm as a complement to the 25-megawatt Eva Creek project. GVEA officials have said the fluctuating nature of wind power limits the amount that it can integrate into its system. Borgeson said in a statement that the co-op is concerned the added wind power would raise its rates.
Mr. Craft is circulating a flyer claiming that Delta Wind will save GVEA members $4 million a year. But the numbers don’t add up. First, AEP wants 12.5 cents per kWh for its wind — 25 percent higher than power from GVEA’s Eva Creek Wind farm. Second, Mr. Craft has claimed that his wind farm is “free” to GVEA. But [ratepayers] would pay in the form of higher electric bills for many years. It’s kind of like the “free” phone you get from the wireless company. You end up paying for it — and more — when you’re locked into a contract.
Borgeson said that Golden Valley cannot justify buying wind power from Craft if it doesn't beat the average production cost under current regulations. "We would love to have Mike Craft's wind (power). It's in the right spot, at Delta, to have power generated there," he said. "It's just got to be a fair economic deal - it's got to work for both of us."
"There's a cost of regulating wind. ... When the wind and the turbines are spinning, we get 24 megawatts, but when the wind stops within a few minutes we get nothing," he said. "We have to throttle up the turbines, otherwise we're going to put people in the dark." The GVEA grid already includes up to 25 megawatts of wind power.
Work on the Fire Island wind farm shut down during and after the storm, but the turbines didn't suffer any damage, said Jim Jager, spokesman for the developer, Cook Inlet Region Inc.
But don't expect cheaper power ...Construction costs for the wind farm total about $65 million. Chugach agreed to buy the power at 9.7 cents per kilowatt hour, higher than the 6 cents per kilowatt hour Chugach pays on average. Fire Island will add a bit more than a dollar to the average residential monthly bill," he said.
Council members said little, but apparently agreed with City Manager James Hunt, who said he was "very uncomfortable" with the proposal, and recommended that the council not do so. "We literally would be asking the citizens of Seward to write a blank check for participating in this project. I can't do that," Hunt said, adding, "It would increase our rate two fold, three fold, we have no idea."
The Air Force in 2009, flush with economic stimulus money, awarded contracts for wind turbines at three other remote Alaska locations -- Cape Newenham and Cape Romanzof in southwest Alaska and Cape Lisburne in northwest Alaska -- at a cost of $4.7 million each. They have not been constructed. Stimulus money was supposed to go for "shovel ready" projects and the wind turbines were not, the audit said.
The Inspector General of the Department of Defense has issued a report saying the projects have been poorly planned. One should be canceled and the other two need more work as they are facing $1 million cost overruns, the independent agency recommends.
Alaska utility regulators are weighing a proposed contract between the state's largest electric power company and a wind farm developer. The developer says a prompt decision is vital to allow construction to begin in time to qualify for key federal grants.
The 11-turbine wind farm is one-third the size that CIRI hopes to build eventually. But at this point, Chugach is the only utility to sign on to buy Fire Island power, so CIRI created a scaled-back first phase, Jager said.
To make the integration seamless, ML&P wants CIRI to guarantee a certain amount of power in advance regardless of how strong the winds are. If the wind output falls short, ML&P wants CIRI to find an alternative energy source to make up the shortfall. "That doesn't work with wind ... That single item makes it unworkable."
The Alaska Energy Authority estimates that a Watana hydro project could generate power for about 6 cents per kilowatt hour, but that assumes that construction costs would be $5 billion or less, and that the state would pay for half of that. Without the state subsidy, Watana power would cost more than 10 cents per kilowatt hour.
At the center of the controversy is a proposal by Cook Inlet Region Inc. to develop a wind project on Fire Island off Anchorage. Cook Inlet Region wants Municipal Light and Power to sign an agreement to purchase wind power. The company needs purchase agreements before it can go ahead.