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KEA head says Pillar wind project is safe for birds  

The Kodiak Electric Association wind generation project on Pillar Mountain, so far does not put birds in harm’s way.

Both the power company and the Kodiak Audubon Society got together Friday at Kodiak College to discuss progress of KEA’s renewable energy project that ultimately will result in savings to customers and reduce hydrocarbon diesel fuel use and emissions.

“It’s a win, win for all of us,” Darron Scott, KEA chief executive officer, said today.

KEA and the Audubon Society have been studying the impact of the wind generation on birds and have found little to worry about.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the Pillar site as passing wildlife preservation regulations.

Scott told the group of about 20 people that the Pillar site has about two to 35 times less than average bird use when compared to other wind turbine farms in the U.S.

Audubon member Stacy Studebaker said Audubon is comfortable with the KEA project not harming birds that might fly through the area.

Scott said an evaluation of eagle paths and migratory birds show that the 1,000-foot height on Pillar is safe.

“There is nothing flagged so far as a large concern,” Scott said.

“The raptors are quick enough to see the blades and birds are staying away,” he said.

The Aviation Evaluation Study will be completed by June of this year.

Scott asked the Audubon group to help support the KEA project by urging funding support from legislators and the governor and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

KEA hopes to receive about $5 million from the state to build the wind farm.

Gov. Sarah Palin expressed her support for alternative energy resources in an address to legislators last week.

The wind towers will stand about 240 feet high.

Average winter wind speeds of 20 mph fuel the three blades. In the summer, wind speeds are about 12 mph. For the system to properly use the wind there is a window of a minimum of 9-10 mph and maximum of 52 mph.

Winds in Kodiak blow from the southeast in the summer to northeast in the winter.

“There has been a good wind regime so far,” Scott said.

A wind generation system being developed in Unalaska was terminated last week because winds were too high, with gusts up to 150-160 mph.

The strongest winds detected in the Kodiak area are about 110 mph.

Scott said KEA studied wind history provided by the Kodiak State Airport, which goes back many years.

The wind farm will generate from 10 to 15 percent of KEA total power, with Terror Lake producing about 85 percent.

The blades of the turbines will be heated to prevent icing.

Cost of a wind-generated kilowatt-hour is 7 to 8 cents, compared to 18 cents per hour of diesel fuel.

Scott said there are fewer nitrous oxides and sulphur oxides that cause smog released to the air by using wind generation to create electricity.

Construction on the wind farm is to begin by the summer of 2008. KEA is working to complete state land use, FAA and Army Corps of Engineers permits.

The five turbines to power the system are being made by a firm in Toronto, Canada.

The estimated budget for the wind generation project is between $10 million and $12 million.

KEA received approval for a $7 million Clean Renewable Energy Bond Nov. 28, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Once complete, KEA cooperative customers stand to save about $300,000 in the first year of wind-generated electricity and near $3 million over the 20-year life of the project.

The project could be expanded, Scott said, after its kinks have been worked out.

Scott said construction would require KEA to do roadwork on Pillar Mountain to make passage for 300-ton cranes to get up the mountain.

He said Pillar would have a gravel service road to provide access to the turbines.

Mirror writer Bryan Martin can be reached via e-mail at bmartin@kodiakdailymirror.com.


This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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