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King Cove's new hydro plant is now online

July 14th, 2017 | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

Falling water is holding down electric rates in the southern Alaska Peninsula community of King Cove. The local city government announced that its new Waterfall Creek hydroelectric facility went online in June, according to the Aleutians East Borough newsletter, "In the loop."

The new hydro facility has been performing very well and producing up to 400 kilowatts. Waterfall Creek is the community's second run-of-the-river facility. King Cove's first hydro facility, Delta Creek, went online in 1994 and is about twice the size of Waterfall Creek. Together, these two renewable energy sources are expected to produce about 75 percent of the city's annual power demand of 4.5 megawatts, according to the borough newsletter.

These two hydroelectric facilities provide King Cove with the distinction of being the most prolific, single-site renewable energy community in rural Alaska. "The community is very excited about Waterfall Creek being completed and does not expect to hear the sound of our diesel support system until winter," said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack.

The final project cost is expected to be about $6.7 million. The project has been funded with $3.3 million, or 50 percent, in grants from the Alaska Energy Authority and the Aleutians East Borough; $3 million, 45 percent in long-term debt, from the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank and AEA's Power Project Fund; and $400,000 or 5 percent in contributions from the city.

The project required 12 years from the initial concept, design, permitting, funding and construction. "The city's perseverance in completing the project has largely been driven by 22 years of success with Delta Creek," said Mayor Mack. "This hydro has displaced more than three million gallons during this time, with more than 50 percent of the community's total power production coming from this renewable energy source."

King Cove's current cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity is 30 cents. This cost is one of the least expensive throughout rural Alaska where the average cost is 45 cents per kWh. The average cost of electricity in the lower 48 is 12 cents per kWh.

With Waterfall Creek online, the city is confident that it can maintain or possibly even lower its kWh rate.

The community is planning a formal dedication of the Waterfall Creek hydro facility later this summer. The city will also be issuing a detailed report at that time, documenting the project's unique history, challenges and what the city can expect its renewable energy future to look like.

The city sees some irony with the new hydro plant starting up, and King Cove being simultaneously informed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska that the community is no longer eligible for a power cost equalization (PCE) subsidy.

About 186 communities throughout rural Alaska receive the PCE subsidy, including more than 35 communities that have some amount of renewable power generation.


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