When CIRI initially launched its Fire Island Wind project, there was concern about whether the company would be able to bring the project to fruition and, if so, how well it would operate. Four years after the project became operational, Fire Island Wind has been lauded by General Electric Company (GE) as one of the top four wind energy projects across the country.
“It proves that we’ve been more than successful,” explains CIRI Senior Director of Energy Development Suzanne Gibson.
GE collected data from wind turbine projects from across North America regarding availability to produce energy, given appropriate wind conditions. Fire Island Wind showed consistently high availability, averaging 98.6 percent availability over the calendar year—a high percentage, by industry standards.
“That basically means there wasn’t even a ten-minute period during the month graphed out by GE where the turbines were not available to produce energy, which is astounding,” Gibson says.
What’s more astounding is the work done by maintenance crews to keep Fire Island Wind operating at peak performance. Crews work continuously, not only responding when something does go wrong, but—more importantly—mitigating against breakdowns.
“That’s an everyday thing,” Gibson says. “It demonstrates very good maintenance practices and being very proactive.”
Adds CIRI Senior Vice President of Land and Energy Development Ethan Schutt, “This achievement highlights that our internal and contracted team is best-in-class in its operations and maintenance, despite the remote, islanded and subarctic location of our project.”
The project also provided an inspiration for young Anchorage engineers. When a FIRST Robotics Program team of Anchorage high school students from several different schools brainstormed a name for their team, they looked to what inspired them – and saw the massive wind turbines of CIRI’s Fire Island Wind.
The inspiration led the Fire Island Wind Robotics team to solicit donations of tee shirts and stickers from CIRI’s Land and Energy Department, which was proud to support the students as they competed in FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Competition. The team successfully won four awards for their robot, their team booth and their community outreach and team spirit. As a result, the team qualified for the Alaska State FIRST Robotics Competition. Placing in the top five, the Fire Island Wind Robotics team will go on to represent Alaska at the West Super Regionals in Oakland, Calif., in March.
On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the team paid a visit to CIRI to demonstrate the robot they designed and built. Afterwards, the students met with CIRI Land and Energy representatives to learn more about the project that inspired their name.
“It’s really cool to see a group of science-, engineering- and technology-minded kids who are interested in learning more about these kinds of projects,” says Gibson.