By Brad Reeve of KEA
Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA) is a non-profit, member-owned cooperative that supplies power to approximately 3,200 residents in the community of Kotzebue, located 32 miles north of the Arctic Circle. KEA first generated power in 1954, when it acquired its first two diesel engines.
Diesel fuel remains the primary source of energy for electricity and home heating for over 200 rural Alaska communities. The cooperative remains focused on solutions that accelerate the integration of technology that increases the use of renewable energy and reduces diesel consumption, not only for Kotzebue, but the rest of the region.
Renewable energy innovation is a key component of the energy picture in Northwest Alaska. In operation since 1997, the KEA Wind Farm, the northernmost wind farm in the United States, and the first utility scale wind farm above the Arctic Circle, is an excellent example of success. This innovation was recognized by the Alaska Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2006 when it named KEA the “Small Company of the Year.” KEA was then nominated and received the 2007 IEEE “Region 6 Outstanding Corporate Service to the Engineering Community Award”.
Wind generation began for KEA when the utility commissioned three 66-kW turbines in 1997. Another seven turbines were installed in 1999. By 2011, the Kotzebue wind farm had grown to 17 wind turbines and represented the first megawatt of wind power in Alaska. In 2011, Kotzebue Electric began installing two 900-kW wind turbines. These two new generation wind turbines sit on 250-foot towers and have dramatically increased the amount of wind energy available to the community.
Today, the total installed capacity of the wind farm has reached 3-MW, and it displaces approximately 250,000 gallons of diesel every year. The wind turbines supply 20 percent of all of the power generated for the community, with the remainder of the community’s power being generated by an 11 MW diesel powerplant.
The wind farm consists of one-65 kW Vestas V15 turbine, one 100 kW Northwind 100 turbine, fifteen 66 kW AOC 15/50 turbines, and two 900 kW EWT turbines.
KEA developed the first use of “Freeze Back Pilings” to use as the permafrost foundation for wind turbines. The installation for all of the turbines is done when the ground is frozen to minimize damage to the tundra. This design and construction strategy has been used as the basis for the majority of turbine installations throughout rural Alaska.
OTHER KEA RENEWABLE PROJECTS:
• Installing a 1.2 MW utility scale Lithium-ion battery to capture more wind energy
• Testing a 25 kW synchronous wind turbine for small village use Emerging Energy Technology Grant (EETG)
• Installing a GE Clean cycle to utilize engine exhaust heat to produce non-fuel electricity
• Testing solar thermal equipment to heat water and homes for Elders with a EETG grant
• Using engine jacket water to power a 20-ton ice maker for the salmon fishing industry
• Using engine jacket and after cooler heat to heat city water supply for winter operation