Wales turns to wind power to reduce reliance on diesel

Posted: Sunday, December 24, 2000

KOTZEBUE (AP) -- Two windmills have been erected in Wales in an effort that could make obsolete the village's dependence on diesel oil.

Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, Kotzebue Electric Association and various state and federal agencies joined forces to get the windmills in operation. When both turbines are online, the village should see about a 60 percent reduction in it's diesel use.

The turbines are owned and maintained by KEA and are funded through various grants. They will reduce the village's dependence on diesel generators, and therefore help defray costs of building huge diesel tanks and barging fuel to the village.

The Wales project could help pave the way for similar projects throughout Alaska's Bush. Projects for other turbines in villages in the Northwest Arctic Borough also are being considered. Kotzebue's wind farm already supplies enough electricity to power about 200 homes.

KEA started researching the potential of wind energy in Kotzebue in the 1990s.

''In 1992 we set up our own wind monitoring station,'' said Brad Reeve, general manager at KEA. ''The data from the weather bureau looked attractive.''

The first turbines went up outside Kotzebue a few years later.

The Kotzebue wind farm has partners and sponsors including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Alaska Division of Energy, the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Kotzebue wind project is considered a low penetration project, where the wind supplements the regular diesel power. The Wales project is considered a high-penetration project because the wind power has the potential to provide enough power that the diesel generators can go off-line.

Most coastal areas in Alaska have strong enough winds to make wind power a feasible project. Power from the wind turbines can be stored in batteries for up to seven minutes, which gives the diesel generators time to go online in case the wind turbines stop working.

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