Tidal Power Study Shelved for Now


Diana Gish/KMXT

The success of Kodiak Electric Association’s wind and hydroelectric plants has made Kodiak a state leader in the production of renewable energy. The utility cooperative plans to continue developing more sources to make the island energy efficient. But as KMXT’s Diana Gish reports, they’re not ready to adopt another new technology quite yet.

Simply put, capturing tidal and wave energy involves using the equivalent of underwater windmills.And though someday it may become the wave of the future, for now tidal and wave energy research has been shelved by KEA’s Board of Directors.

During their last regular meeting, the board chose not to pursue a tidal energy study with the Electric Power Research Institute. Board chairman Cliff Davidson explained:

(Tidal Power 1 "The board felt … behind the decision.")

CEO Darren Scott said the study would have cost around 35,000 dollars.

(Tidal Power 2 "as Cliff said … commercial yet.")

The Electric Power Research Institute, or "EPRI" is located in Paulo Alto, California. and carries out research and development for the electric utility industry. The institute’s ocean energy leader is Roger Bedard.

(Tidal Power 3 "and about six…near the coast.")

Bedard calls Alaska the "ocean energy state." But the small number of customers in coastal areas, means fewer people to share the expense of adopting new power generation technology. Still, Bedard points out that the high cost of flying fuel into remote locations is a strong motivation for looking to the ocean for energy.

In the village of Yakutak, where energy now costs 50 cents a kilowatt hour, leaders have decided it’s worth the expense. This month a year-long, wave-energy feasibility study was completed for the village of just under 600 residents. The cost of the study was around 40,000 dollars.

(Tidal Power 4 "and what it … the particular site.")

The study then looks at other attributes of the site including where to connect to the utility grid, what the port infrastructure is, what the load requirements are for the city and what size the plant should be. After that, a preliminary design of a plant is created. From there, researchers work with developers to design a wave energy conversion device to meet the energy needs. Finally, the "lifecycle" cost of energy is determined based on the known resource and the cost of the energy producing device.

Now that the study is completed, Yakutak is looking to move from the feasibility study to the design and construction phase. The power company has applied for grants from the Alaska Renewable Energy fund to create a pilot wave energy project.

As excited as Bedard is about Kodiak’s potential for harnessing both wave and tidal energy, he’s not disappointed with KEA’s decision. He pointed to Kodiak’s new wind and hydroelectric plants as a good reason to hold off on the ocean energy study.

(Tidal Power 5 "This is all … Kodiak, that’s huge!")

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