Yukon River turbine poses no fish problem

Posted: Tuesday, September 07, 2010

FAIRBANKS - Fish have no reason to fear a turbine generator in the Yukon River near the village of Eagle.

University of Alaska researchers have been studying the 16-by-8-foot turbine that Alaska Power and Telephone installed in the river this summer to provide the village with an alternative power source.

"In the brief testing that we have been able to accomplish, we have no indication that the turbine has killed or even injured any fish," said Andrew Seitz, research team leader and assistant professor.

That is partly because the turbine is in the deepest and fastest part of the river, and has four blunt blades that spin at only 22 revolutions per minute, Seitz told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The turbine also takes up only a very small part of that area of the river, he said.

On the shores of the river, the team has been using fyke nets to capture fish and estimating the population of the river since late May. The shore information lets them know the species of fish in the river and gives them an idea of times they migrate.

Seitz said this summer's testing has yielded a lot of information, but he hopes the study can continue for another couple of summers.

Originally, Alaska Power and Telephone received $3.2 million from a Denali Commission grant, with about 20 percent of that put into the fisheries study.

The utility has tentatively agreed to provide funding for next summer, depending on their own funding in the coming year.

"Everyone's biggest consideration is the fish," Seitz said.

The company first deployed the turbine in late June but was only able to get it to run for four or five hours per day. They fixed some electrical and mechanical problems and had it running just in time for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's inspection of Eagle's spring flood aftermath.

Shortly after the inspection, however, heavy rainfall brought loads of debris into the river, and the turbine had to be shut down. Before bad weather, the turbine ran successfully for 11 straight days and was producing 15 to 17 kilowatts.

Mark McReady of Alaska Power and Telephone said that if the turbine continues to produce 15 to 17 kilowatts, it will supply about a quarter of Eagle's energy need.



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