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GVEA Studying Proposal to Buy Power From ‘Hybrid’ Wind-propane-battery System

KUAC file photo

Golden Valley Electric Association is studying a Colorado-based company’s ambitious proposal to sell 55 megawatts of electricity generated by a hybrid-power system based mainly on wind. Officials with Eco Green Generation are proposing to build a new wind farm, an electricity-storing battery system and a series of small propane-powered backup generators around Fairbanks and the area’s three military installations.

Golden Valley President and CEO Cory Borgeson says Eco Green’s unsolicited proposaltook him by surprise when it popped up in his e-mail inbox week before last.

“We got an e-mail that I thought may be spam, from a company that I’d never heard of,” he said.

But Borgeson says utility officials confirmed the company is for real and meets federal requirements to propose such as project. And to request how much Golden Valley would pay for the 55 megawatts that Eco Green proposes to generate with what it calls a hybrid wind- and propane-powered system.

Borgeson says the utility has hired a consultant to study the proposal and help come up with a power-purchase price.

“If we give them a price that they believe is acceptable and will work for them, then they believe they can have this within eight to 10 months,” he said.

The proposal includes building a 25-megawatt wind farm and 4-point-4 megawatt electricity-storing battery in Delta Junction, along with 11 5-megawatt propane-powered backup generators around Fairbanks and North Pole. Borgeson says they’d be located “like at Fred Meyer west and Safeway west, at the hospital and at Costco.”

Eco Green also is separately proposing to place nine more of the propane-fired generators on the area’s three military installations. Bill Rhodes is a partner in the venture, and he says all those locations were chosen to take advantage of the heat that’s created as a byproduct of the backup generators’ operation. He says the company will offer that to the commercial customers to help heat their nearby buildings.

“This is a solution to provide affordable, renewable clean power, and significantly reduce the PM 2.5 count,” he said. “Over time, this will make a huge impact on the air pollution in Fairbanks.”

Rhodes says Eco Green will use railroad tank cars to transport the propane to Fairbanks from western Canada by barge and rail and to store it until it’s used. He and his partner Mike Craft, a Fairbanks-based wind-power developer, say the project will prove that wind energy can reduce dependence on generating electricity with fossil fuels. And Craft says it’ll also boost the economy.

“We were looking at a stronger economy for Fairbanks,” Craft said. “We were looking at a cleaner environment. We all have kids and grandkids that are living here. We want to be able to keep them here.”

Credit KUAC file photos
Golden Valley President and CEO Cory Borgeson, left, and Mike Craft.

Craft is a partner in another wind-energy venture – Alaska Environmental Power’s 2-megawatt wind farm in Delta Junction that sells power to Golden Valley. He says the expertise and wind data the company’s gained since the facility began operating in 2008, along with studies it’s compiled on the economics of using wind power and its technical requirements will all benefit the Eco Green plan.

“We’ve got 10 years of operational experience working with the wind at Delta Junction.,” he said. “We know exactly what the wind regime is. We know exactly what of turbines we need to put there.”

Craft says he’s also learned from his so-far unsuccessful efforts to expand the wind farm in Delta and sell more power to Golden Valley. His most recent proposal is on hold after an Anchorage Superior Court judge last month ruled against him and in favor of Golden Valley. The utility argued the proposal would cost Golden Valley too much money to keep the flow of electricity steady when the wind died down and power generation slacked-off.  Craft says the Eco Green proposal would solve that problem.

“We went to Golden Valley, and they kind of defined exactly what they wanted to see, which was some type of a hybrid system,” he said. “That’s where we got the idea of using wind as our primary resource and backing it up with propane. And also … a scalable battery.”

Craft says he and his partners will privately fund the project. And he declined to disclose its estimated cost. Borgeson says the Golden Valley board of directors hasn’t yet met to consider the Eco Green proposal. But they likely will by the end of February, when the utility is required to file a tariff with state regulators that’ll spell out the price Golden Valley would pay for the hybrid-generated electricity.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.