Alaskan native-owned wind farm nearing completion

The Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that the 17.6-MW Fire Island wind farm being built by Cook Island Region, Inc. (CIRI), a native-owned corporation, will soon go online.

According to the article, "Roads, turbine pads and electrical infrastructure are nearly complete. Shore-side and submarine transmission lines will be complete by the end of the month. Construction is also under way for connecting roadways as well as an underwater transmission line from Fire Island to the Railbelt electric grid. Once completed, CIRI should begin producing commercial power before the end of the year.

"More than two-thirds of the contractors working on the project are Alaskan companies."

Electricity generated from the wind farm, which has been on the drawing boards for a decade, will be sold to Chugach Electric Association (CEA) at a flat rate of 9.7 cents/kWh for the next 25 years, the article said. The utility, it added, has been seeking to diversify itselectricity supply mix, which is currently dominated by natural gas. The Fire Island project’s website explains, "South Central Alaska utilities rely almost exclusively on locally produced natural gas to supply more than 90 percent of the region’s electric power generation and space heating needs. However, known South Central Alaska gas reserves are in steep decline, and production will fall short of demand within the next two years, according to utility projections." The wind farm, it adds, will reduce CEA’s natural gas requirements by 500 million cubic feet each year.

The wind power project is expected to churn out 48.5 million kWh annually, enough to power the equivalent of 6,000 average households.

AWEA’s Larry Flowers, Deputy Director for Distributed and Community Wind, commented, "The implementation of the Fire Island project is a tribute to the vision and perseverance of a number of Alaskan advocates that knew it was the right thing to do for generation diversity, rate stability, and the environment. This first utility-scale project on Alaska’s Railbelt will go a long way in demonstrating to the state’s energy planners, managers, regulators, and ratepayers that wind energy is fully compatible with a natural gas-dominated utility system, and hopefully lead to significant additional wind integration in the future."

Tom Gray,