West Creek - energy for cruise ships and the Yukon ?
October 27, 2012
The Town of Skagway is once again considering development of the West Creek hydro project. With 350 cruise ships each summer the demand for energy is there. Not to mention the Canadians would like some too.
- The project was studied more than 30 years ago, then again a decade ago. A 25 megawatt hydro project on the West Creek of the Taiya River near Dyea, 7 miles from Skagway.
- The US EPA has mandated that cruise ships switch to low sulphur fuel when docked in port. But really what would be the best is if the cruise ships did not have to burn diesel at all. Each one, of the 350 that visit each summer, uses, on average, 11 MW of power while in port.
- The Yukon Energy Corporation (YEC), the main electrical energy producer in the Yukon, is running out of hydro power. It would love to buy energy off Skagway, particularly in the winter. Of course it would need to build transmission facilities over the mountains to tap into this supply.
- The Alaska Energy Authority is likely to make a decision on funding a feasibility study in December. If its decides to fund the study it would still need the blessing of the State legislature.
YEC is running out of hydro energy very quickly, say in 2 years, when Victoria Gold’s Eagle mine comes onto the grid. The attraction for this energy for YEC is that it would be available in the winter, just when demand is highest and when Skagway would not need it (no cruise ships around).
It will take some years for this project to get approvals and to be built. This could be a perfect candidate for a P3 project—get the private sector to finance construction and sell the energy to Skagway and YEC in a long term contract.
a) Daniel Bishop, "Environmental investigation of the West Creek hydro project", RW Beck and Assoc., Dec-1981, (graphic from p.35) see http://akenergyinventory.org/hyd/SSH-1981-0101.pdf
c)Josh Kerr "Skagway could solve our power shortfall" Yukon News, 26-Oct-12, p.6.