State's wind farms key to cutting energy costs

Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Cold wintertime winds in Alaska's villages typically mean higher energy costs to stay warm.

In time, those winds could help push down prices, but that's if a planned wind farm development comes to fruition.

The state proposed spending $14 million on wind farms to power six villages on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. This is part of a $100 million statewide effort to produce renewable energy around the state.

This also means weaning these far flung villages off the more expensive diesel fuel while taking down electric bills.

"The wind turbine is a blessing for us," Harvey Paul, general manager of the local power company, Puvurnaq, said Monday. "We have some of the highest fuel prices in the state and some of the best winds."

These wind projects are among a list of 72 renewable energy priorities recommended last week by the Alaska Energy Authority.

The recommendations also include wind projects around Nome and Kotzebue, wood-burning boilers in the Interior, and hydro feasibility studies.

The priority recommendations must be approved in the next few weeks by the Legislature, which must also decide if the program warrants the recommended $50 million a year funding.

Rural Alaska's problems - underscored by high energy costs and a poor fishing season - hit the news this month with stunning reports from Emmonak and nearby villages on the Yukon delta.

Last year, as oil prices hit record highs, the Legislature addressed some long-term issues with the Renewable Energy Fund.

Lawmakers put $50 million into the fund during the regular legislative session and added another $50 million during the summertime special session.

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