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Energy seekers want wind test at Hatcher Pass  

WASILLA – A company that hopes to one day build a wind farm on Fire Island in Anchorage wants a permit to install towers to test the winds at Hatcher Pass.

“This company is wind-prospecting,” said Mike Sullivan, a natural resource manager with the state Department of Natural Resources.

Cook Inlet Region Inc. spokesman Jim Jager said the Hatcher Pass project is in the very early stages of development. It’s one of several wind ideas being working on by CIRI, an Anchorage Native corporation, and its partner enXco, a California wind energy company.

The two companies, working under the name Wind Energy Alaska, are seeking a state permit to put up two 198-foot towers west of Bald Mountain Ridge. Each would hold three or four wind velocity meters, attached at various heights, along with wind vanes and a temperature sensor. A solar-powered transmitter would periodically send data from the towers to a Washington state office.

Jager said the study would take a year, longer if winds during the study time are considered abnormal. If wind data is promising, Wind Energy will analyze whether developing a wind farm is profitable.

It’s too early to talk about specifics such as how much power could be generated, he said.

“We’re ages away from determining whether we even want to build a wind project there or in the vicinity,” Jager said.

Sullivan said the towers would likely go unnoticed by most Hatcher Pass users. Roughly three miles from the road on the Willow side of Hatcher Pass, they might not even be visible to drivers.

Mat-Su State Parks Citizen Advisory Board president Mary Anderson said her group hasn’t weighed in on the project yet. But she and others are worried about potential damage from repeated trips across the tundra by the tracked vehicle, which the company says it plans to use to erect and take down the towers.

“We want it to be done right,” Anderson said.

Jager said the towers would take less than a week to install. According to its application, each tower would be 10 inches in diameter, anchored to a steel base and held in place by guide wires. Winter installation is preferred, he said.

Sullivan said he’d also like to see the job done when the ground is frozen. If not, he said, his office might recommend that the company use helicopters to transport the towers and equipment.

“I don’t see letting a vehicle go in there if the ground’s not frozen,” Sullivan said. “The tundra’s pretty fragile up there.”

Sullivan said Natural Resources employees are still evaluating the project. Whether a permit is granted or not after the Jan. 30 public comment deadline will depend on how the project fits into guidelines governing development in Hatcher Pass and on public comments, he said.

Wind Energy Alaska plans to gather wind data this year on the Kenai Peninsula and in northern Mat-Su as well as at Hatcher Pass. It is still gathering data on Anchorage’s Fire Island, Jager said.

By Rindi White

Anchorage Daily News

9 January 2008

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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