Alaska utility's wind power plan criticized for low payouts

The Anchorage Daily NewsApril 1, 2011 

Anchorage's city power utility made a long-awaited offer this week to buy wind power from Cook Inlet Region Inc., backers of a proposed wind turbine project on Fire Island.

But CIRI senior vice president Ethan Schutt said the offer is so low it's ridiculous and contains unworkable terms.

Municipal Light and Power director Jim Posey held a press conference Thursday to explain the utility's offer, which he said protects ML&P customers from higher costs.

CIRI wants to begin construction of turbines on Fire Island off Anchorage this summer, but has so far been unable to get any utility companies to sign contracts to buy the power it would generate, said company spokesman Jim Jager. "Realistically, the project isn't going forward until we have power-purchase agreements," he said in a recent interview.

The corporation is lined up to get nearly $44 million in federal grants to help build the turbines, but the money is contingent on starting this year. The state has approved using $25 million in public funds to build a transmission line from Fire Island to the mainland.

The first phase of the project -- 22 turbines that could provide electricity for 12,000 households -- would cost about $135 million, said Schutt.

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