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GVEA Seeks Proposals on Projects to Generate More Electricity with Renewable Energy

Alaska Energy Authority

Golden Valley Electric Association is asking for proposals on how the utility could generate more electricity with renewable-energy sources, like wind and solar. The goal is to reduce the Golden Valley’s greenhouse gas emissions without affecting its ability to produce electricity reliably, with few blackouts. And, to do all that with minimum impact on ratepayers’ monthly bills.

Golden Valley generates nearly 90 percent of its electricity with diesel, coal and other fossil fuels. But now the utility is exploring cleaner and greener ways to generate power with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

“We recognize that the CO2 emissions are problematic (for) our environment, and that we want to make sure we do everything we can to reduce those,” former Golden Valley President and CEO Cory Borgeson said two years ago, referring to the carbon-reduction goal the utility’s board of directors had just adopted.

That was one of several objectives in a 2018 plan that also included a study of the utility’s aging Healy 1 power plant, and what to do about it when it reaches the end of its useful life. And those are among the top reasons that Golden Valley last month issued an invitation for proposals on electrical-generating facilities powered by renewable energy sources.

“One of our strategic objectives this year is to work on a generation plan, and what the future of generation is going to look like,” says Golden Valley’s Acting Member Services Director Abby Dillard. She says the Request for Information, or RFI, that calls for renewable-power proposals requires the systems to contribute to the utility’s carbon-reduction goal while complying with its long-time imperative to produce electricity reliably and at the lowest possible cost.

“We are very interested in renewable projects, as long as the cost makes sense for our members,” she said in an interview last week.

The RFI calls for proposals on renewable-power facilities that would produce 15 to 30 megawatts, for which Golden Valley anticipates it will pay less than 9 cents per kilowatt hour. Golden Valley Senior Engineer Nathan Minnema says soliciting renewable-energy proposals could help the utility realize new ways to generate power cost-effectively, with few or no emissions.

“So that we could evaluate different proposals and see which one would be most beneficial to us. And also kind of open the door to see what other options may be out there,” he said.

Credit KUAC file photo
Golden Valley's effort to solicit proposals for renewable-energy projects is being conducted as part of a 2018 set of directives that also calls for evaluating whether to shut down or upgrade emissions controls for GVEA's 54-year-old Healy 1 power plant, the smaller structure to the right of the larger, newer Healy 2 power plant.

Minnema says some of those ideas will be integrated into the power-generation plan that the 2018 Strategic Directives also called for. The plan will among other things consider whether Golden Valley should upgrade the 54-year-old Healy 1 power plant with costly emissions controls, including a Selective Catalytic Reduction unit, or SCR, or shut down the 25-megawatt coal-fired plant and replace it with another power source. Dillard says the utility’s board must make that decision next year.

“By the end of 2022, we would need to notify whether we are going to elect whether to retire Healy Unit 1, or install an SCR,” she said. “And then, if we were planning to retire, we would need to shut down the plant by December 31st, 2024.”

Minnema says the renewable-power systems that Golden Valley will be considering wouldn’t replace Healy 1. But he says the new renewable power source would augment Golden Valley’s mix of electrical-generating facilities.

“We’re going to be considering those projects in light of our generation strategic planning,” he said last week. “That includes Healy 1 retirement. That includes potential capital upgrades on existing generation units.”

Dillard says the renewable-power proposals must be submitted to Golden Valley no later than April 30th. And she says the RFI requires any renewable-power system the utility selects to be operational by 2025.

Editor's note1: This story was revised to clarify that Golden Valley anticpates it will pay less than 9 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity generated by the renewable-energy project that's selected under this solicitation.

Editor's note2: Cleck hereto download Golden's Valley's 2020-21 Strategic Directives.

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.