Wrangell Sentinel -

Study proposes hydro facilities in Borough


Greg Knight

Construction of a third turbine at the Tyee Lake hydroelectric plant is one of the topics discussed in a report issued by the Alaska Energy Association.

A report issued by the Alaska Energy Association, in cooperation with the research group Black and Veitch, has named eight potential locations in the Wrangell area that could be used for hydroelectric generation.

The Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan report states that Anita (Kunk) Lake, Lake Shelokum, Sunrise Lake, Thoms Lake and Virginia Lake could be looked to for future development of sustainable hydropower. The creation of a new dam at Tyee, or construction of a third Tyee turbine is also on the list of possibilities for the borough.

The proposed project at Virginia Lake would be the most expensive, estimated at costing between $103-154 million to build – though the new facility could generate up to 12 MW of capacity and show an annual output of more than 43,000 MWH, and cost between 8-12 cents per KWH.

Comparably, Sunrise Lake, on Woronkofsky Island, could field a facility with a total construction cost of between $16-24 million. That hydroelectric project would only generate a maximum capacity of 4 KW of energy but at a cost of 4-6 cents per KWH.

Jeremy Maxand, the chairman of the Southeast Alaska Power Agency board of directors said the IRP was a necessary step in updating data that was woefully old and inaccurate.

“It became very clear during the IRP process that we don’t have enough good information on potential new hydro sites in the SEAPA service area,” Maxand said. “There are a lot of potential sites that past studies have identified, but modern regulations and our need to ensure water storage capacity so we have power when we most need it, the winter, can narrow that list down quickly.”

In Wrangell this is especially important since so few year-round run-of-the-river sources of water exist.

“The trick is finding a potential hydropower site that allows for storage capacity,” he added. “Our greatest need for power is during the months when there is the least amount of flow on many potential watersheds because of freezing weather and its elevation. So, it’s important that we find a site and project that increases our ability to store water, which is potential energy.”

According to the report, the design of long-term combination generation/storage facilities in Southeast is one of the main factors to be taken into consideration on new projects.

“A key driver is the fact that the Southeast region as a whole is currently short of hydroelectric storage capacity,” stated the report. “As a result, potential hydroelectric projects with storage capabilities are more valuable, particularly from a system integration or utilization perspective, than potential run‐of‐the‐river hydroelectric projects.”

Petersburg is also mentioned in the report as having possible hydroelectric development at Cascade Creek, Scenery Creek and Ruth Lake.

AEA project manager James Strandburg said the process to study the possibilities of new hydro plants in Southeast has been a long but necessary goal in meeting the power needs of the region – and that public input was critical to his group.

“While there were clearly some unexpected turns in our journey, the active debate in our many meetings … have been very helpful to our agency,” Strandberg said. “There has not been universal acceptance of the document by any means, but I have been impressed by the public-minded approach that all stakeholders have shown in expressing widely varying thoughts and opinions. The revised document has been thoughtfully assembled to fully consider all public comment, and to provide a final report that is integrated and implements your recommendations as well as many of the public’s ideas.”

Maxand added that while the study isn’t perfect, and doesn’t solve every problem facing Southeast’s power needs, “It does make a start toward ongoing research into sustainable power in the region,” he said.

The input from citizens in the region was also very important, according to Maxand.

“Public involvement in this process was absolutely critical,” Maxand said. “A lot of big questions were asked and concerns were brought to the forefront as a direct result of the public’s involvement and review.”

A timeframe of committed resources in the SEAPA region, including the Kake-Petersburg and Ketchikan-Metlakatla interties, the Whitman Lake hydro project, and possible biofuel development in Wrangell were projected out for coming years in the report as well. The Kake-Petersburg intertie is proposed to be operational by 2015, at a cost of $52.9 million, with 2016 being seen as a feasible date for biofuel manufacturing in Wrangell.


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