Alaska’s Fire Island wind farm has commenced operation. This is a very large wind energy project with nameplate capacity of 17.6 MW to feed into the Chugach Electric Association grid to supply energy for Anchorage and environs.
Fire Island is located just three miles west of Anchorage. The land on Fire Island is owned by CIRI, an Alaska Native corporation. It is one of 12 Alaska-based regional corporations established by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 to benefit Alaska Natives who had ties to the Cook Inlet region. Fire Island Wind LLC is a wholly owned CIRI subsidiary.
The concept was first put forward in 2000. The last 12 years were spent on regulatory, planning and construction activities. At the beginning, the cost of the wind power will be slightly more expensive than gas they use to generate most of their power now. Chugach power costs, on average, 6 cents per kilowatt hour. At the start the wind power will be 3.7 cents more.
The initial install is for 11GE XLE 1.6 MW Wind Turbines, with possible expansion to 33 turbines under the existing permit. It should provide enough power for 4,000 homes.
Each turbine is 80 m in height (262 feet) and the blades are 40 m long (131 feet). The turbines turn at between 9.8 and 18.7 RPM. The project’s net capacity factor is estimated to be approximately 32.8 percent.
The estimated cost of the first phase of the project is about $65 million for generation and other on-island infrastructure, plus the cost of new transmission infrastructure. Most of the project will be funded through federal and state energy subsidy programs.
The location seems ideal for a wind energy project—isolated from urban populations, yet close to the grid, and very windy. It will be interesting to see how well the turbines hold up in harsh conditions (cold, wet, windy, icy).