Lime Village tries redesigned energy hybrid system

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The southwestern Alaska town of Lime Village is the test site for a project on the usefulness of hybrid power.

The small electric generation project is a hybrid -- part solar and part diesel -- and is designed to test how well solar power can work to reduce high rural Alaska power bills, project officials said.

The new system began operating in July and includes installation of 106 solar panels made by BP, which along with Alaska Energy Authority, McGrath Light & Power Co., and the U.S. Departments of Housing & Urban Development and Energy, helped launch the project.

The village along the Stony River was chosen in part because of its high energy costs. Lime Village was not electrified until 1998, and power costs have averaged about 85 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Lime Village, population about 50, relies entirely on air transportation. The recent cost of diesel fuel delivered to the town was more than $4 a gallon.

''While this system is experimental, it's an important step in the right direction,'' said Phil Graham, Lime Village planner. ''We're making improvements and refinements to make it more reliable, and we're optimistic about the efforts to bring an effective solar-diesel hybrid system to our village.''

An experimental hybrid system was installed in Lime Village in 1997 but failed because of design problems. The redesigned system is expected to reduce diesel use by 30 percent. The work is part of AEA's rural alternative energy research program.

The redesigned system includes installation of 106 solar panels manufactured at BP Solar's plant in Fairfield, Calif., and a state-of-the-art direct current-alternating current inverter and a smaller diesel generator. A battery bank from the original project stores surplus power for future use.

Each solar panel is expected to reduce the need for about 10 gallons of diesel a year. They should operate for at least 20 years with little maintenance. Graham said the village's diesel costs were reduced more than $2,000 in the first month after the system went online.

Chugach Electric Association and Cook Inlet Region, Inc., also are looking into energy alternatives. Chugach announced Tuesday the companies will be expanding a project to generate electricity with wind turbines on Fire island. The project was begun in early 2000.

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