Deadline nears for Fire Island wind farm financing

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Alaska electric utilities are still deciding whether to buy power from the proposed Fire Island wind farm.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the Cook Inlet Region corporation needs to have contracts to sell the power to win a $44 million federal grant and line up other financing for the $162 million project. The deadline is the end of the year for the federal money.

The corporation says the wind farm could supply about 4 percent of the electricity in the Railbelt. The Railbelt is the territory covered by the Alaska Railroad from Seward through Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks to North Pole, with spurs to Whittier and Palmer.

The region's largest power company, Chugach Electric Association, is the giant at the negotiating table, but other utilities are in talks. Chugach Electric staffers are worried about the cost to retool its power grid for fluctuating wind power.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan says he's not sure it's economical for the city to purchase the wind power.

Power from Fire Island turbines would cost more than gas-fueled electricity. But the Cook Inlet Region corporation says its rates will be flat over time, while gas rates are expected to rise.

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