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Huge Eva Creek wind turbines start delivering power to Fairbanks

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the highly anticipated Eva Creek Wind Farm near Healy began producing power this week, making late 2012 a strong season for alternative energy advocates.

In September, the 11 turbines at Fire Island owned by Cook Inlet Region, Inc. started generating power for Chugach Electric Association. The Anchorage turbines are a little smaller at 262 feet apiece.

Eva Creek, located about 14 miles north of Healy, uses 12 turbines, each 410 feet tall. Wind power began flowing the morning of Oct. 24. At nearly 25 megawatts, Eva Creek becomes the largest wind energy project in Alaska, according to Golden Valley Electric Association.

“Right now, they are commissioning the turbines, and five are fully commissioned right now,” Golden Valley’s Cassandra Cerny told the News-Miner. “Commissioning requires wind to be blowing, and during commissioning, they only run the turbines when on site.”

The $93 million Eva Creek project – which includes state appropriations of $11.4 million – is projected to save Golden Valley members more than $13 million over the next 20 years.  The Fairbanks-based electricity cooperative intends to produce 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2014.

Bills for Golden Valley customers have soared in recent years, according to the company – from $84 for a customer using 700 kilowatt hours a month in January of 2005 to $170 seven years later.

Golden Valley says the turbines should produce 77 million kilowatt-hours per year, enough to power more than 9,100 homes.  By contrast, Fire Island’s wind turbines are expected to generate enough power for 4,000 Southcentral homes, just a sliver of Chugach’s overall load.

“The cost of energy coming out of this project is going to be approximately equal to the average cost of all our other generation units,” said Kate Lamal of Golden Valley.