RCA approves Fire Island deal

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) approved Chugach Electric Association’s power purchase agreement to buy Fire Island wind power on Oct. 10. The RCA’s approval comes in time for Fire Island Wind LLC, a CIRI subsidiary, to move forward with construction and complete, commission and produce power before the end of 2012, as scheduled.

Southcentral Alaska currently depends on Cook Inlet natural gas for about 90 percent of its power generation. The project may marginally increase Chugach ratepayers’ residential utility bills initially, but is expected to protect Chugach ratepayers from natural gas cost increases due to declining Cook Inlet natural gas reserves in the mid- and long-term because wind power is not affected by fuel costs. Chugach’s purchase of Fire Island wind power is expected to reduce Southcentral Alaska natural gas consumption by 0.5 billion cubic feet per year.

“I applaud the RCA’s decision to approve the power purchase agreement,” said CIRI President and CEO Margie Brown. “Domestic alternative energy development is important to Southcentral Alaska and I hope this decision signals that Alaska regulatory agencies are ready to support and encourage private-sector projects that benefit energy consumers.”

The first phase of the wind farm includes 11 turbines capable of producing up to 17.6 megawatts of power, enough energy to power more than 6,000 Southcentral Alaska homes. Chugach agreed to purchase an expected 48,500 megawatt hours of electricity annually from Fire Island Wind LLC at a 25-year fixed cost of 9.7 cents per kilowatt hour. Chugach estimates that the wind power will save the company nearly $3 million during its 25-year contract.

Chugach’s power purchase contract begins on Jan. 1, 2013. Construction on the wind farm will provide 80 to 100 local jobs. Interested applicants can submit a resume to [email protected]. Learn more about the Fire Island wind project at www.fireislandwind.com.