A broad cross section of the community turned out Thursday, May 1st to celebrate HEA’s energy independence day with an official ribbon cutting. “The plant actually came on line January 1st but we wanted to wait for the weather to be a bit nicer to have our official dedication,” explained HEA spokesperson Joe Gallagher.
“There were times since we broke ground in April of 2011that I couldn’t wait for this day to come and while that was a relatively short time ago there were days it felt like it was a decade ago,” HEA general manager Brad Janorschke to the Dispatch in an interview, “But it has been an exciting major project and to see it all come to fruition is very fulfilling. As I have told the staff even though there were struggles and challenges at the end of the day what we designed and constructed is performing as we expected and actually over exceeding our expectations and we are very proud of this plant. We had some expectations as far as efficiency improvements and to date since the first of the year we have been exceeding what the design specs predicted. So that’s good news and means we burn less fuel for the amount of energy we produce,” he said.
With the resurgence of industry in Nikiski Janorschke is confident that with the New Generation Plant on line HEA will be able to meet any future projected demands, “We did not envision Agrium restarting when we added the steam turbine, but in discussions with Agrium folks recently whether there would be energy available here if they were to restart and the answer was yes, we do have excess capacity at this plant and fortunately we also have a new plant that was just recently commissioned in Soldotna which is almost as efficient as this Nikiski facility so we have plenty of efficient capacity available on the Peninsula. I think we have met any future needs at least for the next decade,” said Janorschke. In the past HEA has promoted the project as a bridge to the future, “This is that bridge and other future development will focus on renewable energy and as renewables develop we will certainly integrate them into our existing generation base.”
As the cornerstone of HEA’s generation portfolio, the facility features a steam turbine in conjunction with an existing natural gas turbine to produce a total of 80 megawatts of power. According to Janorschke the turbine uses waste heat to create enough steam to produce 18 megawatts of power without using any additional natural gas. The new facility he says created a total of 34 full-time long term jobs not including numerous local contractors during the construction phase. The mild winter has also been good news for HEA and their customers, “The winter was wonderful this year, we burned less fuel than anticipated which is great news for our members because that is the large component of their electric bill and they didn’t use as much energy due to the mild winter so it was good news for everybody and we sure appreciate this perfect day today for dedication and we’re thankful for everyone who turned out to share this important day in HEA history for us,” he said. A couple of fun facts pointed out during the celebration, “The pressure of the natural gas delivered to the Nikiski plant is approximately 1,300 times higher than the pressure used in homes. 80 megawatts can power 800,000 100-watt incandescent light bulbs and at 48 megawatts, the turbine produces the equivalent of 63,000 horsepower.”