FAIRBANKS — Golden Valley Electric Association’s generation portfolio could add more renewable energy in the next decade.
And the co-op has a big decision to make regarding the coal power plant known as Healy 1.
GVEA President and CEO Cory Borgeson briefly touched on his vision of more renewable energy in the future during the co-ops annual member meeting — mentioning an additional four turbines at GVEA’s own Eva Creek wind farm, Mike Craft’s proposed 13.5-megawatt wind farm, and the Fire Island 2 wind project. Borgeson said GVEA could be putting more batteries into the system to accommodate the increase in renewable energy.
Borgeson also announced GVEA would construct a half megawatt solar array near Fairbanks. Borgeson said the small array would be somewhat experimental in nature to see solar arrays cost effective. Borgeson said there are currently 165 solar producers on the grid and an independent power producer has been in contact with GVEA about a creating 1-megawatt solar array near Salcha.
Connecting with GVEA is relatively easy and encouraging if the renewable energy source is less than 2 megawatts, Borgeson said. He said an independent power producer that generates more than 2 megawatts will incur regulation costs.
The 28-megawatt coal plant known as Healy 1 is due for an environmental permitting upgrade in 2022, Borgeson said. If the permit and upgrade are not met, the plant would be shut down in 2024 and GVEA would lose a cheap source of energy.
“It’s a decision we have to make. We haven’t mapped it out. I would suggest it’s more than $50 million to upgrade,” Borgeson said.
Borgeson said the Healy 1 plant’s output wouldn’t doom the grid but it would be a tough loss because coal power plants from the 1960s are lasting a long time and the plant is well maintained.
Healy 2 — the plant formerly known as the Healy Clean Coal Project — was purchased by GVEA in 2013 from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for $44 million. After repairs and upgrades the power plant went online in 2015 before an explosion took it out of commission. Healy 2 has since had another small explosion.
Borgeson said the plant is still six months to a year from coming online, but when its operational it will produce the cheapest power in the rail belt.
“The cost of power out of that plant is so low it is competitive with anything being produced by the Anchorage utilities,” Borgeson said. Borgeson plans to sell power from Healy 2 to other railbelt utilities in an effort to lower member energy rates. “We are always a buyer. When Healy unit 2 runs it would be dispatched all the time. It could be sold to the south.”
In addition, Borgeson said relationships with other railbelt utilities are at a high point, and these companies have not been so friendly in the past.
The Golden Valley Electric Association was formed in 1946. The co-op now has more than 34,000 members and serves the Interior communities stretching from Fairbanks to Delta Junction and south to Cantwell.
Contact staff writer Kevin Baird at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcity.