There are dozens upon dozens of projects around the state that aim to diversify Alaskan’s energy sources and make life more affordable. But what if one project could power the state, using an untapped resource? One young project, the Alaska Grid sets out to do just that.
Alaska’s vast size and geographic diversity is one of its top assets, but it’s also the biggest challenge in terms of energy. While there is a lot of coal in the interior, hyro in the southeast, and gas on the north slope, none of those are powering residents outside their region. A somewhat new technology, known as High Voltage Direct Current, or HVDC can link far off areas and turn the state into a grid.
Meera Kohler is the President and CEO of the Alaska Village Electric Co-op.
“The vision is that we would be moving it you know, 600 miles this way, and 400 miles this way, and 500 miles the other way. You can do that with HVDC. You can’t do that with AC,” said Kohler.
The project would take advantage of the north slope’s huge natural gas resources and build a highly efficient 2 gigawatt gas fired plant. This would serve producers at the slope and create cheap power, around 5 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s less than a tenth of the cost of AVEC’s average cost for power.
The expensive build out would then bring cheap power to Fairbanks, then the State’s west coast, before finally coming down to the Y-K Delta. That leg would cost a half billion dollars. Project leaders expect that they could produce power between 9 and 12 cents a kilowatt hour.
“When I say affordable energy, I mean truly affordable energy, cheaper than anywhere we area able to produce practically in Alaska to day. We have to have that the mindset, our state government needs to make it our top priority. Private investors are out there that would like to participate in this,” said Kohler.
The project is asking the state to put some skin in the game with a 1 million dollar economic feasibility study. The economic argument includes the face that the state’s mineral and other natural resources could have a lot of added value.
“None of the major projects have reliable energy sources, look at red dog, it’s on diesel fuel for all of its energy. Look at the Ambler mining district, they have no idea how they are going to provide energy to do an extraction project. we’re sending out our raw resources, we could be developing a major industry over there, a flourishing industry with affordable energy,” said Kohler.
The grid would change the way that we think about power. It’s not just a gas plant on the slope. It could take in electricity from projects all around the state. And it could expand markets for the state’s broad resource base.
“Pretty soon the entire world is going to be in one way or another grid-connected and it’s all going to be because of HVDC. Alaska can be a huge contributor to that grid. We have the potential to come out on top of the world literally and provide a significant chunk needs of not just north America’s but potentially other parts of the world too,” said Kohler.
More information on the Alaska Grid Project is available at http://allalaskaenergyproject.com/.