GVEA POWER

A wind farm at Eva Creek is seen. According to public relations director Meadow Bailey, GVEA’s system scans every four seconds to find the lowest cost source of power available. Courtesy GVEA

When it comes to energy, there is no single source that powers Fairbanks homes.

For example, on Thursday, energy came from coal and diesel plants, as well as solar and wind farms, spread out between Anchorage, Healy, Eva Creek and North Pole. That day went without using hydropower from Bradley Lake near Seward.

Developing this multi-sourced system, the Golden Valley Electric Association team wanted to power the Interior in the most efficient way.

“Every four seconds the GVEA system scans to see what energy sources are available and it works to secure the lowest cost source,” public relations director Meadow Bailey wrote in an email.

GVEA was founded back in 1946 by a small group of farmers who strived to bring energy to rural areas. Today, the utility serves nearly 100,000 residents across the Interior, from Fairbanks to Delta Junction, Nenana, Healy and Cantwell as well as residents living on Steese Highway, Elliott Highway and Chena Hot Springs Road.

On Thursday, all these residents needed 157 megawatts in total — a significant amount of power, considering that one megawatt can supply around 650 homes.

The amount of energy the system needs increases when it’s cold and people use more electricity to stay warm. Last year, peak load of nearly 195 megawatts happened on Dec. 20 when the temperature reached 31 below zero, while the average summer load is around 125 megawatts, Bailey said.

On Thursday, most of the energy, or 65 megawatts, came from two coal plants in Healy. 

The wind farm that brought 10 megawatts to the Interior that day is located in Eva Creek, not far from the Healy coal plants.

“Both wind and coal are cheap sources of energy,” Bailey said. 

On a more expensive side, there is power generated using diesel or Naptha, she explained. The Interior receives that type of energy from the generators in North Pole. On Thursday, they delivered 50 megawatts to the area.

Five megawatts for powering the area on Thursday came all the way from Anchorage, while hydropower from the Seward area and coal-powered energy from more expensive plants in Fairbanks stayed available but weren’t used.

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.