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Energy talks on tap: Wind energy, hydroelectricity to be discussed

Posted: Friday, April 10, 2009

Green.

What used to just be one of eight original colors in a box of crayons has since taken on a much different meaning with a growing environmentally conscious population.

The Kenai Peninsula is no exception.

Borough residents, in particular Homer Electric Association members, are calling for the utility to explore renewable energy possibilities such as geothermal, tidal, wind and hydro.

The cooperative has been studying the feasibility of the latter two -- wind energy and hydroelectricity.

"We've really focused our attention on those two areas," said HEA spokesman Joe Gallagher.

To keep the membership informed on HEA's progress, the co-op will be holding three alternative energy forums in each of its three districts.

"We know that there's so much interest in the projects we want to do these forums," Gallagher said. "We're continually making the effort so people can come out and hear what's new with these projects."

An overview of the projects will be discussed along with information about where HEA receives its power and what the utility's future needs are.

Homer Electric Association, partnering with renewable energy company Wind Energy Alaska, has been studying the feasibility of four low impact hydroelectric projects on the peninsula since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted the co-op preliminary permits last October.

The four sites are located in the Moose Pass/Seward area, Ptarmigan Lake, Falls Creek and Grant Lake.

HEA has three years to evaluate the potential engineering, economic and environmental impact of the project on each site.

Each site will be studied on its own and moving forward will depend on what each study reveals. These studies must be conducted prior to applying for a project license.

The project would produce electricity by using a stream's natural drop in elevation and diverting the water through a duct or pipe to generate electricity.

Each site is estimated to have a potential of producing five megawatts of power. HEA's total peak load for the peninsula is about 90 megawatts -- 10 percent coming from the Bradley Lake hydro site and 90 percent from natural gas.

The utility's goal with these projects is to help reduce its reliance on natural gas. With today's rising fuel costs, these projects would make available a variety of energy sources and help to decrease electric rates.

Gallagher said the reconnaissance studies have just been completed. Those results will be shared at the forums along with future plans for each project.

The cooperative's investigation into the possibility of wind energy, too, will be discussed.

A question-and-answer session will be allotted at the end of the evening, Gallagher said.

Representatives from the utility, WEA and HDR Inc., an engineering consulting firm who is working with HEA on the hydro projects, will be speaking at the event.

The first meeting will be held Monday at the Sterling Senior Center and begins at 6:30 p.m. The second forum is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Alaska Islands and Oceans Center in Homer. The third meeting will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Nikiski Recreation Center.

"The more information we have out there I think the better off we'll be," Gallagher said.

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.



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