For the past 10 years, CIRI’s Fire Island Wind (FIW) Project has delivered renewable, emissions-free energy to more than 7,000 homes in Southcentral Alaska. FIW represents the area’s first utility-scale independently owned wind project, and it helped redefine the future of energy in Cook Inlet and beyond.
“Fire Island Wind is important to CIRI for so many reasons,” said Suzanne Settle, vice president, CIRI Energy, Land and Resources. “It was the first project CIRI developed and constructed on its own, and it put us on the map for additional investments in the clean energy industry.”
FIW took more than a decade of planning. Various regulatory and other issues—including navigating the complexities of a power-purchase agreement and removing and rebuilding a key navigational aid for the nearby Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport—hindered progress, but CIRI never lost sight of its goal of offering a competitively priced, renewable addition to Southcentral Alaska’s energy portfolio.
“We live in this community and care about our carbon footprint,” Settle continued. “Because Fire Island Wind was important to us as a corporation, we stuck with it and saw it through, even when it was challenging.”
The Regulatory Commission of Alaska approved a power purchase agreement between Fire Island Wind and Chugach Electric Association, Alaska’s largest electric cooperative, on Oct. 10, 2011, which cleared the way for the construction of FIW. Parts and equipment began arriving in Anchorage in the spring of 2012, and the project commenced commercial operation on Sept. 24, 2012.
In 2016, Fire Island Wind was lauded by General Electric Company as one of the top four wind energy projects in the U.S.
“Fire Island Wind is important to CIRI because it was really the launch of our efforts to acknowledge and move in the direction of sustainable, clean energy for Alaska,” CIRI President and CEO Sophie Minich said. “Alaska doesn’t have state-mandated renewable energy targets that power companies must meet, but every day brings with it new evidence of climate change in our communities, especially in our rural communities. As an Alaska Native corporation, CIRI recognizes we have a duty to continue responsible stewardship of our lands so that future generations of Shareholders and Descendants not only profit from our investments but continue to practice the customs and cultures of their ancestors.”
FIW currently consists of eleven 260-foot-tall turbines whose blades sweep an area greater than an acre. CIRI has the capacity to expand the project and generate enough power to meet the needs of some 28,000 homes and businesses.
For a 10th anniversary video of the Fire Island Wind Project, scan the QR code or visit ciri.com/fiw10
The History of Fire Island
- Location: Fire Island is situated 3.5 miles off the west coast of Anchorage.
- The Dena’ina name for Fire Island is Natul’iv, which means “object that stands in the water.”
- Fire Island’s modern-day name comes from Captain James Cook. Cook and his two ships, the Resolution and Discovery, sailed into Tikahtnu, later dubbed “Cook Inlet.” Cook sent some of his men to explore an island near what is today the city of Anchorage. They built a fire there and ate. Because the fire served as a beacon to Cook, he dubbed the 5.5-mile stretch of land “Fire Island.”
- According to a Dena’ina Elder, a village once existed on Fire Island, but an epidemic forced the survivors to evacuate sometime before 1934. Nonetheless, Fire Island was the site of Dena’ina fish camps from 1918 until the 1970s. From 1909 to 1955, the island was designated as a breeding ground for Alaska moose. During World War II, the U.S. Army used it as an observation point to guard against Japanese submarines.
- In 1951, an Air Force Station (Fire Island AFS) was established. The station closed in 1969, leaving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the sole user of the island. The FAA site closed in 1980.
- Fire Island was home to the Breakneck Hill ski area from 1957 to 1979. The area included a ski hill and toboggan run, one 800-foot rope-tow, a warm-up cabin and two sheds.
- CIRI acquired Fire Island as a surplus federal property in 1982.
- CIRI currently owns 90% of Fire Island’s 4,000 acres, with the rest belonging to the FAA and the U.S. Coast Guard; the Coast Guard’s navigational beacons are currently non-operational. The FAA maintains a private general aviation airfield on the east corner of the island, which has one runway. Access to the island is by permission only.
- At low tide, it is possible to walk across the mud flats of Cook Inlet to reach Fire Island. Hikers occasionally attempt the 3.5-mile trek from Kincaid Park, but the incoming tide can make the journey dangerous, and people have drowned.