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Cook Inlet Region, Inc. to Operate Alaska's First Wind Power Project


The Fire Island Wind Project in Anchorage, Alaska, has received regulatory approval to become the first independently owned commercial-scale wind power project in the state.

Project owner Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), an Alaska Native corporation, has teamed up with Summit Power Group, a Seattle, Washington-based clean energy developer, to pursue building and operating the wind farm located on Fire Island in Cook Inlet, just three miles west of Anchorage. The project, developed by Summit Power, will be owned and operated by Fire Island Wind LLC (FIW), a wholly owned subsidiary of CIRI.

The power purchase agreement, approved by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, confirms that Alaska’s largest electric utility Chugach Electric Association (Chugach), will buy the power produced by the Fire Island wind project. This approval resolves the final regulatory barrier to construction of the project, which will be Alaska's largest wind power project, states a Summit Power press release.

Local utilities had been considering the wind power project for almost 20 years. In 2005, CIRI took up the challenge to begin development efforts. CIRI signed a power purchase agreement with Chugach that will allow it to proceed with the construction of 11 wind turbines. While the total project is ultimately planned for 33 wind turbines, the first phase of 11 turbines will have a 17.6 megawatt (MW) nameplate capacity and is expected to supply 51,000 MW-hours of power to Chugach annually. This is enough to offset more than 300 million cubic feet per year of natural gas that Chugach would have burned to produce the equivalent electricity. The project will supply about four percent of Chugach's power and provide enough electricity for approximately 6,000 homes.

“Southcentral Alaska relies on natural gas to generate more than 90 percent of its electricity; however, the gas reserves currently available in Cook Inlet do not represent a reliable long-term source of energy,” said Suzanne Gibson, Senior Director of Energy Projects at CIRI. “Wind power will provide a clean and economical energy source for this region, while decreasing consumer vulnerability to gas shortages and inevitable gas price increases. Summit Power has been instrumental in developing the Fire Island wind project with us to provide Alaska with a clean, renewable power supply.”

FIW aims to complete construction of the turbines and the undersea transmission line to Fire Island by fall 2012. Project commissioning and commercial power production are anticipated in late 2012. With construction of future phases, the project could eventually feature up to 33 turbines, generating 150,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually. This is enough power to meet the needs of more than 17,000 Southcentral Alaska households.

“CIRI is on the leading edge of energy development in Alaska with its work to aggressively develop alternative power projects in the region,” said Tom Cameron, senior vice president of project development for Summit Power. “As the first utility-scale independently owned wind power generation project in Alaska, Fire Island represents a major milestone in diversifying the state’s energy portfolio. We’re extremely proud of our work with CIRI, which we believe helps showcase Summit’s ability to develop a complex, first of its kind project with numerous parties and lay a solid foundation for long-term success.”