Photo: Renewable Energy Alaska Project
Photo: Renewable Energy Alaska Project ©

The integrated wind-hydropower-diesel system at Pillar Mountain, AK provides the residents of Kodiak Island, the second-largest island in the U.S., with almost 100% renewable and reliable energy. Winner of the Department of Energy and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Wind Cooperative of the Year Award, the project is a model for advancing wind power in remote areas. The results of the wind farm far surpasses the state of Alaska’s goal of achieving 50% renewable energy by 2025.

Kodiak Electrical Association (KEA), a nonprofit, member-owned electric utility cooperative, installed Alaska’s first large-scale (over one megawatt) wind turbine at Pillar Mountain, AK in July 2009. The wind turbines were designed to work in conjunction with the existing hydropower plant at Terror Lake.

The first stage of the project consisted of installing three 1.5 megawatt General Electric turbines and integrating them into the hydropower system together on an isolated grid at a cost of approximately $21 million. KEA financed the project with grant money created by the Alaska Energy Authority fund and additional funding through clean renewable energy bonds (CREBs). CREBs funding was provided through Co-Bank, a cooperative bank that funds rural utilities.

In its first year, the turbines allowed the utility to cut diesel fuel use by 930,000 gallons and generated approximately 13.3 million kilowatt hours.

After the success of the first phase, KEA sought to double the wind capacity by installing an additional three megawatt turbines. The company used lessons learned from the many logistical challenges involved in transporting and installing the first three turbines. Using the phased approach, enabled KEA to work around the severe weather and optimize the timing for deliveries.

The installation was completed in the fall of 2012. Combined, the six wind turbines produce 9 megawatts of wind power. In addition, KEA added an energy storage system of 3 megawatts, which allows the community to regulate potential energy fluctuations when wind conditions are not optimal.

The project was completed by the end of 2014, and enabled the community of Pillar Mountain to satisfy 99.7% of its energy needs from renewable energy sources; 9% of its energy is produced by wind turbines, along with the existing three hydroelectric turbine generators at Terror Lake which generate 91%. The town utilizes the diesel generators only as a back-up, thus saving 7,255,345 gallons of diesel since 2009. The hybrid system in Kodiak blends wind, diesel and hydropower, a technology that is bringing attention to the village and to Alaska. Combined with the Terror Lake hydroelectric project, KEA can now shut off their diesel generators almost all year.

The Pillar Mountain Wind Farm was the recipient of the 2009 Wind Cooperative of the Year by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and DOE praised the project for paving “the way for large wind turbine manufacturers to do business in Alaska while gathering experience on integrating megawatt-sized wind energy systems into other isolated grid systems throughout the state.”

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