by Rebecca Palsha
12:00 AM AKDT, October 13, 2010
Cook Inlet Region, Inc.’s Fire Island wind turbine project is about to reach a critical deadline, as the Alaska Native corporation tries to win a $44 million federal grant. CIRI needs power-purchase agreements with Railbelt utilities, but so far no one's signed on.
CIRI flew a group of reporters across Cook Inlet to Fire Island on Wednesday, to see how much has been done to turn this island wilderness into a base for 33 wind turbines.
“The cost of power, the cost of energy off Fire Island wind is 7.2 cents per kilowatt-hour, and then there’s 2.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in operations and maintenance of the facility -- so the total cost is under 10 cents per kilowatt-hour,” said CIRI’s Suzanne Gibson.
CIRI says it can reduce utility gas demand by as much as 3 or 4 percent annually, saving money for customers and power companies -- especially in the long run, if gas supplies dwindle.
“It’s possible the Fire Island wind project could be a little bit more expensive than, say, (Municipal Light and Power’s) cost of generating electricity, but for some of the Railbelt utilities the cost is actually less than what they currently producing,” Gibson said.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says ML&P’s board will decide what's best for its customers -- but it has to be financially sound.
“The 20-year projection shows the avoided costs can't be met by the other source, so that's the challenge -- we all like renewables, but at the same time it has to make economic sense,” Sullivan said.
Chugach Electric says a study is being done now to see if the project makes economic sense, while the Railbelt utilities are negotiating with CIRI.
The company has already spent millions, but needs an agreement by November. The project could be online by 2012, and CIRI says Fire Island energy will be far less expensive than electricity generated with imported liquefied natural gas.
Contact Rebecca Palsha at email@example.com
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