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State approves GVEA wind farm project

FAIRBANKS – Golden Valley Electric Association has cleared the last permitting steps to build a 25-megawatt wind farm near Healy, putting the project on schedule to begin producing electricity in less than a year.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources gave its formal blessing to the Eva Creek project Thursday when no appeals were made to the state’s decision to permit the project. By Friday, GVEA President Brian Newton had spent $37 million for a dozen wind turbines to be erected at the site.

“It’s a done deal,” Newton said. “We’re moving forward.”

Newton said the wind farm is on schedule to begin producing electricity September 2012. A road to the site is under construction, he said, and work on the foundation will begin next spring.

Eva Creek will be the first large-scale wind farm in Alaska, set to open at the same time as an unrelated project at Fire Island near Anchorage. GVEA has planned the turbine farm since 2003, saying the renewable energy source will diversify its power supply without boosting member rates.

Newton said costs for the project, which had an estimated budget of $90 million, have been encouraging. That includes a surprisingly competitive bid by turbine maker REpower, which GVEA chose over turbines from General Electric.

“We always felt that they were the Cadillac, so when we got that price it was an easy decision,” he said.

Eva Creek will allow GVEA to meet a self-imposed goal of generating 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2014. The utility estimates the farm will also provide rate-payers a small savings during the next 20 years by allowing GVEA to offset oil burned at its power plants.