Wind energy avenues open up for Bethel

February 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Wind energy avenues open up for Bethel

February 19, 2014 | Volume 16, Issue 8

The City of Bethel council approved an action memorandum that approves the transfer of two wind energy development grants from the City to the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC).

The two grants are the Alternative Energy Feasibility Study grant for $78,870.49 and the Bethel Wind Farm grant is worth $2,998,096.

“With AVEC taking over the electrical utility in Bethel we now have a chance to finally move forward with plans to do things with wind energy that we have been unable to do in the past,” said City Manager Lee Foley during the February 11th, 2014 regular meeting. “By allowing AVEC to assume the monies that were in these grants that we have been unable to use up until now, we can start moving forward on this project. Wind energy is critical to Bethel – we have places we can use it.”

AVEC is currently in the process of completing the purchase of the electric-generating assets of Bethel Utilities Corporation. AVEC will be the new regulated electric utility, which has a history of developing wind energy projects in the Yukon Kuskokwim region.

On October 29th, 2013, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) approved the transfer of the Bethel Utilities Corporation’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC). The official transfer date is May 1st.

“We are already looking at one turbine for the pool, we need to figure out ways and means we can harness more wind energy and save costs to the people of Bethel,” Foley said.

In a letter dated January 24, 2014, Foley wrote to the Alaska Energy Authority to request to transfer the wind energy development grants to AVEC pending council approval.

These grants have to be used towards the benefit of all electric consumers, said council member Eric Whitney.

“It is not a grant that can be used strictly to power buildings for the City. It’s got to be used for funds that can benefit all electric consumers, not just city buildings. That is why it has been nearly impossible for us to use it to this point,” he said. “The Alaska Energy Authority requires that the improvements go to all electric users. If there is going to be a benefit from wind power it has to go to everybody and not just the City.”

If the grants are transferred to AVEC, the City of Bethel will avoid having to incur the cash match amount of $199,899 for the wind farm grant, according to AM 14-14.

“If AVEC purchases and installs one or more commercial-scale wind turbines in Bethel, there is the potential for lower electricity rates and/or a reduction of the amount of increase to the rate,” states AM 14-14, which is sponsored by City Manager Foley.

Council member Heather Pike made the motion to approve AM 14-14 and was seconded by council member Whitney. The motion passed 5-0. Council member Sharon Sigmon was attending the meeting telephonically. Vice Mayor Rick Robb and council member Mark Springer were out on travel.

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