FAIRBANKS – The owner of Delta Wind Farm plans to file a formal objection to Golden Valley Electric Association’s decision to push forward with its own wind-power generation project near Healy.
The GVEA Board unanimously voted Monday to endorse the Eva Creek project, a 24.6 megawatt turbine farm developed by the utility. In the process, it passed over two private proposals – Delta Wind Farm and a turbine farm by the CIRI Alaska Native corporation near Anchorage.
Delta Wind Farm owner Mike Craft said he plans to ask the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to challenge that decision, based on the belief it was made with faulty information. Craft said Thursday a lawyer is drafting an objection letter and he expects it to be submitted to the RCA in the near future.
Craft said he would like the RCA to stop GVEA from proceeding with Eva Creek and require an independent evaluation of the three wind projects the utility considered.
Craft said he believes GVEA is overstating the output and low costs of Eva Creek, which influenced the board to choose that project. GVEA estimates it will save utility rate payers $13.6 million during the next 20 years. The project could be on line by late 2012.
But Craft said GVEA badly overestimated the number of hours Eva Creek would be running at full capacity, while underestimating the cost of operating a site on a remote ridge that is currently accessible only by rugged mining trails. He has operated smaller turbines near Delta and Healy for the past four years and said real-world output always differs from theoretical results.
GVEA calculated the potential of the site after evaluating years of wind-speed calculations atop the ridge near Healy. Craft said his proposed Delta-area farm has a more consistent wind source, but he was penalized for making a conservative estimate.
“I can’t say if (GVEA’s) bad info was intentional or just lack of experience,” he said. “This is just very complicated.”
GVEA President Brian Newton said he doesn’t think the complaint to the RCA will gain any traction. He said the utility worked hard to fairly evaluate each proposal and has no motivation to select anything other than the most cost-effective project.
Newton said he was surprised by Craft’s threat to file an objection with the RCA.
“We thought we went into excruciating detail to show what the numbers are, so we are a little dumbfounded by it,” he said.
Craft said he has invested $5.5 million into the wind farm project – a figure that includes a $2 million state grant – and is disappointed his effort hasn’t been taken more seriously by GVEA.
He said the utility entered the process with an unwillingness to work with a private-sector company, and he deserves a fair shot at the contract.
“If your only problem is that you want to own it, buy me out,” he said. “Don’t throw me to the side of the road like trash.”
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