A technology almost as simple as a Yukon River fishwheel could one day power the laptop computers and microwave ovens of Alaska's river people. In Ruby it's beginning to do just that.
Last summer, the Western Alaska village on the banks of the Yukon became the first community in America to tap into the power of an in-stream hydrokinetic generator, a submersible turbine that looks a bit like a tipped-over fish wheel.
In-stream power also gets called "low-impact hydro" and "hydro without the dam." By any name, it may be an idea whose time has finally come.
A 100-kilowatt turbine about 20 times larger than Ruby's is scheduled to be installed later this year in the Upper Yukon River village of Eagle, where it's expected to power all the homes in town from breakup to freezeup.
That could eventually provide a fuel-free alternative to Eagle's present practice of burning about 80,000 gallons of increasingly costly diesel fuel each year to generate electricity.
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