Wind farm could produce cheaper power, GVEA says

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, June 23, 2010:

A wind farm near Healy would likely produce cheaper power than the wholesale prices Golden Valley Electric Association pays, Kate Lamal, a vice president for the utility, said Tuesday. 

Lamal said that if projections hold true, that would prevent customer rates from increasing if the utility finishes the $93 million project. 

Golden Valley is readying Eva Creek following an early June change to borrowing rules. The wind farm, near Healy, would be the largest in the state. 

The farm could produce power for a full cent less than Golden Valley’s current wholesale price, which is about 10.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, Lamal said at a presentation on wind energy Tuesday night. She compared that to projections of 14 cent power that preceded a recent change to reimbursement plans under a federal clean energy subsidy program. 

Lamal said the change means Eva Creek — which based on wind patterns at the site is projected to deliver 9 megawatts of power, a fraction of Golden Valley’s portfolio — won’t increase customer’s bills. 

“We think we’ve found a very elegant solution” to the diverging interests between members willing to pay extra for green power and those more interested in lowering rates, Lamal said. “That was the biggest factor, the (interest rate) that we can get to build this project.” 

Lamal said the utility is addressing the project’s other big variables: Years of data on wind patterns are strong enough to secure loans and a $2 million renewable-energy grant from the state has paid for studies of road access, bird migration patterns and integration with Golden Valley’s existing energy portfolio. She said the utility plans to solicit bids to present to the board of directors this fall. A supportive nod from directors would let engineering advance this winter, road and foundation construction occur next summer and turbine installation in 2012, she said.