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Wind-farm developer assails GVEA’s refusal to buy more power

Alaska Environmental Power’s wind farm near Delta Junction produces about 2 megawatts with its two 900-kilowatt and one 100-kilowatt wind generators. (KUAC file photo)

Lawyers representing the Delta Wind Farm are asking state regulators to deny a tariff filed by Golden Valley Electric Association that argues the utility should not be required to buy more power from the wind farm. GVEA said it should be exempt from state and federal regulations intended to promote use of renewable energy, because it can’t integrate more wind power now without incurring costs that would be passed along to ratepayers.

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GVEA President and CEO Cory Borgeson said the utility’s leadership turned down Delta Wind Farm owner Mike Craft’s offer to produce an additional 13.5 megawatts because, Borgeson said, it would cost ratepayers more money.

GVEA’s 24.5-megawatt Eva Creek wind farm near Healy began producing power in October 2012. (Credit GVEA)

“Right now, we are unable to accommodate any more wind power, because of the cost – significant cost – of backing up wind,” Borgeson said.

Utilities must “back up” wind power with conventional sources to replace the power lost when winds die down. In GVEA’s case, it’s a couple of diesel-fired generators in North Pole that are kept idling – and are throttled up quickly, when needed.

“So, when you have to have other sources of generation prepared and ready to go for when wind cuts out, we have to have these turbines running at very slow speeds,” Borgeson said. “And it’s just not very economical, at all.”

Borgeson said that inflicts a lot of wear and tear on the aging generators, and it increases Golden Valley’s fuel costs by about 15 percent, or some $20 million, according to a GVEA study. He says the offer was declined to keep those costs from showing up in ratepayers’ monthly bills.

“We told them that because of the significant cost of backing up their wind, that the financial harm to our members would be too great,” Borgeson said, “And (that) we’d be unable to purchase any of their power.”

That’s the basis of a tariff GVEA filed March 15 with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, or RCA, that explains why Golden Valley should be exempted from state and federal regulations and policies requiring utilities to buy renewable power, whenever possible.

Craft and his attorney, Teresa Clemmer, say GVEA has failed to make that case.

“We think the assumptions that they use to kind of shoehorn that conclusion are totally without merit,” Clemmer said.

Clemmer and Craft say Golden Valley’s tariff is unlawful and “riddled with outlandish assumptions and false statements.” Clemmer argued in a 527-page response she filed with the RCA last week that the utility’s leadership misinterprets and disregards state regulations that were established to help promote renewable-energy sources such as wind.

“It was really just a complete rejection of everything…

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