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GVEA Studies Proposal to Add 42 Megawatts of Wind-generated Electricity to Railbelt Grid

Alaska Environmental Power

The owner of a wind farm in Delta Junction has proposed building a larger facility to produce up to 42 megawatts and selling the electricity to Golden Valley Electric Association. Golden Valley officials say they’re studying the proposal.

Fairbanks developer Mike Craft proposes to build a 42-megawatt facility next door to his Delta wind farm that he says would produce enough power to meet local demand, including the city of Delta and nearby energy-hungry facilities like Fort Greely and its missile-defense base, as well as Pipeline pump station 9, and the Pogo gold mine, 37 miles northeast of town.

“The likelihood is most of the power that we’d produce in Delta Junction wouldn’t see the light of day in Fairbanks,” Craft said in an interview last week.

Craft and his partners have owned and operated the 1.5 megawatt Delta wind farm for 12 years. During that time, he’s tried several times unsuccessfully, to expand the wind farm and sell more electricity to Golden Valley.

Like any businessman, Craft wants to grow his investment. But he says he’s also a believer in renewable energy. He wants to use wind power to displace electricity generated by fossil fuels, like coal and diesel, whose emissions contribute to Fairbanks’ air-quality problems. And he wants to do that without increasing members’ monthly bills.

“I think we can improve the system,” he said. “I think we can improve the environment. And I think we can do it for less money than it’s costing you now.”

For this venture, Craft has again teamed up with his Colorado-based partner and co-owner of a company called EcoGreen Generation. Last month, they submitted their proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and earlier this month, they applied for a site-specific interconnection tariff with Golden Valley. That requires the utility to review the project and report on among other things how it could connect up to Golden Valley’s system.

“My company has demonstrated its ability to install wind turbines in Arctic environments in remote communities and to operate that equipment for extended periods of time,” he said.

Golden Valley’s acting Member Services Director Abby Dillard says the utility’s executives are reviewing the EcoGreen tariff application, as required by state and federal law. She says their analysis will ensure EcoGreen’s project would if built enable Golden Valley to continue to provide reliable service at the lowest cost to ratepayers.

“We’re always open to different proposals,” Dillard said, “but in the end, we’re of course always going to be looking out for what’s going to work with the system (and) what the cost is.”

Golden Valley’s acting Director of Engineering Services Nathan Minnema says the engineers analysis will include a detailed study how and whether the utility’s system could accommodate the additional intermittent wind power, which ebbs and flows with the wind and must be quickly backed-up with power from other sources. The study also would specify what additional infrastucture the proposal would require, such as transmission lines and substation equipment.

“What impacts to the system there would be not only operationally, to absorb that into the system,” Minnema said, “but also what kinds of infrastructure we would either need to build or provide estimates for.”

Golden Valley must complete work on the tariff and submit it in early March to both EcoGreen and the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, which must approve the tariff. The response would among other things set the price that Golden Valley would pay for the power.

Craft says if the company and utility can come to an agreement over the tariff, the new wind farm could start generating power as early as the fall of 2022.

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.