The Wind Farm that Continues to Grow

KEA’s members are aware of the wind farm 4miles south of the airport. The articles on this website are to share the story of KEA’s efforts at increasing wind generation-“a growing wind project,” and to detail some of the challenges involved, to be sure, there is a lot of hard work and plenty of challenges involved in building a wind farm. For more than 3 years KEA has been working toward a goal of an increasing the size and capacity of the wind farm. This spring the initial construction began.

The current wind farm is made up of 17 turbines with a maximum capacity of 1.14MW. Energy produced by wind acts as a hedge to the increasing cost of diesel fuel every year. Since 2002 the cost of fuel for the utility doubled by 2005 to $3 million and then doubled again by 2008 to nearly $6 million. To help our cooperative members deal with volatile diesel fuel prices KEA has pledged to continue every conceivable effort to reduce the amount of diesel fuel used to produce electricity for the community. Diesel prices are expected to continue to increase in the foreseeable future and that makes renewable energy even more attractive.

Renewable energy is very site specific, i.e. to have a geothermal power plant, you must have a constant supply of hot water from the ground, to have quality solar electricity you must have consistent radiation from the sun. Kotzebue has neither of these in sufficient quantity to rely on for electrical generation, but what Kotzebue does have in abundance is wind and the knowledge and experience to transfer that wind into real electricity.

KEA successfully secured more than $8 million dollars in state and federal grants to expand the current wind farm. The plan is to install two (2) EWT 900kW wind turbines. This will increase the wind farm’s capacity to 2.94MW- nearly triple the current installed capacity. This will be a “high penetration” wind-diesel system. However, a high penetration wind-diesel system that lacks storage is not fully optimized: Energy storage allows excess power to be absorbed and then released during peak loads or used for thermal applications

To transition to higher levels of wind generation KEA will be installing a 500kW/3.7MWh flow battery to capture excess wind penetration. This project will increase the capacity of the wind farm beyond KEA’s peak electrical needs and could offer a non fossil fuel way to provide thermal energy for residential or commercial heating needs.

The road to the wind farm expansion will be a long one. The initial work has begun with foundation freeze-back piling already in place. The foundation concrete will be set this summer and civil work will start to connect the existing roads to the foundation sites. To accomplish this work KEA has developed partnerships with the local Native Village Corporation Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation KIC, and an experienced contractor STG.

The turbines themselves will arrive in mid-summer and will be erected next March or April while the tundra is frozen to accommodate the large equipment necessary. The flow battery will arrive this summer and work has begun on the upgrades and transformers needed to integrate the battery with the diesel power plant.

We are excited to be able to advance new technologies and develop new solutions for Arctic Alaska.

Check back on our website often to see progress on these projects and pictures of the work performed in the Photo Gallery.