Windpower Engineering & Development JUNE 2015

Page 18


Alaska-tuned turbines cut heating costs for remote villagers JARROD ORSZULAK Product Manager POSITAL FRABA Inc.

The Windmatic 17S turbines selected for the project were remanufactured and designed to work with the Alaskan village’s existing diesel generators and endure the harsh climate.



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ABOUT 50 MILES SOUTH of Bethel, Alaska, and 50 miles north of the Bering Sea lies Tuntutuliak (locally referred to as Tunt), a tundra village of about 400 Yup'ik Eskimos. Most of the residents here survive off the land through subsistence hunting, fishing, and berry picking. The community is almost entirely surrounded by water. Remote villages such as this one traditionally rely on diesel generators to produce power for heating and electricity. With the combination of rising diesel prices and high transportation costs, power costs run at about $0.65 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) if not more, making the expense of living quite high in Tunt, and they aren’t the only ones. More than 50 similar villages in the region all struggle with the cost of energy. A few years ago, Tunt began to defray the high price of diesel by harnessing its extensive wind resources. Five wind turbines were installed in 2012 as part of a consortium with local governments and three other neighboring villages. The Chaninik Wind Group (formed by the Alaskan United Tribal Governments of Kongiganak, Kwigillingok, Tuntutuliak, and Kipnuk) was awarded $750,000 from the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to implement a multi-village, wind and smart-grid system. The goal was to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 40% in each of the four tribal villages and to implement wind energy to displace 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The Windmatic 17S turbines selected are 95-kW units manufactured from

POSITAL FRABA’s IXARC absolute rotary encoder ensures precise turbine measurements without losing track of its position because of a temporary loss of instrument power.

scratch and designed to work with the village’s existing diesel generators and endure the harsh Alaskan climate. As if to emphasis the severity of the weather, the barge carrying the rotor blades to the construction site was iced in close Bethel and stranded about 40 miles from Tunt. Undaunted, members of the local utility constructed a large sled pulled by snowmobiles for the last leg of the trip. The results: electric costs have significantly dropped. The wind energy used for heating is controlled, metered, and provided to tribal members at a 50% discount off their original fuel costs. According to the EERE website, the average homeowner in the village consumes an estimated 766 gallons of heating fuel at more than $6.24/gallon ($4,780). In some circumstances, this is more than 60% of a household budget. Turbine maintenance also requires some innovation. As you can imagine, weather and geography make it impossible to simply call up a service crew when something goes wrong with a turbine in Tunt.

JUNE 2015

6/18/15 7:36 PM

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