Politics & Government

Energy alternatives outlined for Alaska legislators

JUNEAU — With some legislators fuming over the pace of in-state gas development and broadly supporting energy diversification, a special House committee summoned the promoters of six large Railbelt projects last week to explain themselves and whether they should be subsidized with public funds.

One of the projects -- a wind farm already under construction by Cook Inlet Region Inc. on Fire Island -- is poised to change Anchorage's view to the west and the approach to the city's international airport. The Anchorage Native corporation, owner of the island, plans to prepare sites for 36 wind turbines this summer and have the project in operation by the end of 2011.

Ethan Schutt, a senior vice president at CIRI, told the House Special Committee on Energy that the wind farm is projected to generate as much as 54 megawatts of power. That's enough electricity for about 18,000 homes and a little bit more than the capacity of the natural gas turbines at Chugach Electric Association's International Airport Road power plant in Anchorage, a relatively inefficient 1960s facility now used mainly for backup.

Three other proposed projects, all in early stages of development with no guarantees they will become operational, are near the flanks of Mount Spurr, the active volcano 75 miles west of Anchorage:

• Ormat Technologies Inc. of Reno, Nev., wants to tap directly into the volcano, drawing heat from water brought to the surface and converting it to electricity in on-site turbines. It would generate 50 to 100 megawatts.

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