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GVEA sees savings in first quarter of wind farm

Posted: April 8, 2013 - 12:08am

FAIRBANKS — A power cooperative serving rural Fairbanks will save ratepayers $4 million this year through the use of a wind power project.

Golden Valley Electric Association estimated its Eva Creek Wind Power offset the burning of 1.3 million gallons of diesel fuel during its first quarter of operation, which ended March 31.

The new $93 million, 25-megawatt farm near Healy has a dozen 410-foot turbines.

An association spokeswoman, Cassandra Cerny, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the savings expressed as a swap for fuel oil is an oversimplification because wind power also offset other power sources. However, the savings cut the diesel bill, the association’s most expensive power source, she said.

“It’s definitely meeting our expectations,” Cerny said.

GVEA estimated Eva Creek would average 36 percent of its generating capacity. In January, Eva Creek generated at 47 percent of capacity, followed by 41 percent in February and 37 percent in March.

Winds typically are lighter in the next six months.

Results have been solid so far, Cerny said, with “no big surprises” since operations went online.

The $4 million in fuel savings in based on oil selling at $116 per barrel.

The savings may not be apparent to customers. Customers will see a 2.5 percent hike to their utility charge starting June 1. That’s about a 90-cent increase for the average residential bill and about two-thirds will help pay for Eva Creek, Cerny said.

GVEA expects that will be offset by an anticipated decreases to a fuel charge and a charge to purchase power from other utilities.

GVEA is not projecting additional wind power. The intermittent nature of wind power requires a secondary power source, Cerny said, that can adapt quickly to fluctuations in wind.

A larger wind farm would not be economical, she said, because it would require a conventional power plant to remain idling in case the wind died.

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