Introduction: A Growing Wind Farm

A Growing Wind Farm

Alaska’s first utility wind farm more than tripled in size in early 1999 as Kotzebue Electric Association installed another seven turbines at its wind farm site.

The first three Atlantic Orient Corporation (AOC) turbines went up in 1997.

The turbines are part of the consumer-owned cooperative’s effort to develop a wind energy industry that can bring more affordable electricity and jobs to rural Alaska.

Total energy produced by Kotzebue’s wind farm as of 1/15/99: 335,522 kWH

Diesel fuel saved: 23,965 gallons

The community of Kotzebue uses about 19.7 million kWH of electricity and 1.4 million gallons of diesel fuel each year.

The ten 66kW turbines will produce about 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of electric energy, using the free and clean fuel of arctic winds. Each turbine produces enough electricity to meet the needs of about 20 homes.

As part of a multi-year demonstration project, the co-op will test the AOC turbines, along with other types of turbines, to see how well they operate in remote arctic conditions.

KEA is working towards an eventual 2-4 megawatts of wind generation capacity. That will be enough to meet the electricity needs of the community at peak load (times of highest electricity use).

Federal and state agencies and utility organizations interested in development of wind energy are providing funding and technical support for the project, in the hope that it will help make this form of electricity generation practical for small remote communities in Alaska, and around the world.

Project Goals

  • Testing turbines designed for arctic conditions and making adaptations as necessary.
  • Documenting installation, operations and maintenance challenges and expenses to evaluate the real potential for wind energy generation in remote communities that are not interconnected with a large electricity transmission grid.
  • Developing a training center to teach wind technician maintenance skills to rural Alaskans.
  • Developing remote electronic communications control systems for wind turbines.
  • Developing techniques for installation and operation of wind turbines in smaller village conditions.

Expected Benefits

  • Lower electricity generation costs for consumer-owned KEA.
  • Decreased environmental damage and risks associated with using diesel fuel.
  • Decreased reliance on the State of Alaska’s Power Cost Equalization program to help make electricity affordable.
  • Increased self-reliance using a clean, renewable local energy resource.
  • More of the money needed to generate electricity spent locally, benefiting the local economy.
  • New construction and maintenance jobs for local residents and other rural Alaskans.