HEA has Many Options in Reaching Renewable Energy Goals
Currently, the majority of the electricity used on the South Kenai Peninsula is generated using natural gas. The Bradley Lake Hydro-Electric Plant provides a good deal of electricity to the Homer Electric Co-Op, but more renewable energy sources are constantly being considered. According to HEA’s Dave Thomas, the member-owned utility has some ambitious plans.
“Getting to 50 percent renewable by 2025, to not have all of our eggs in a natural gas basket where we currently get about 80 percent, 86 percent of our energy. And that will entail on a long-term continuing to pursue various hydro projects,” he said. “But in the shorter term, implementing more wind and solar on a utility scale because those are the energy sources that are available now, to be added in the time frame of a few years.”
To help smooth out the sometimes erratic energy flow from renewables such as wind and solar, HEA has installed the largest battery storage system in Alaska, up in Soldotna, according to HEA Board Member Erin McKittrick of Seldovia.
“It's made by Tesla, and we started that process in 2019 of putting this giant battery up in Soldotna, and it's now charged, and it’s on. I don't know if all the testing has been completed yet,” she said. “It stores 93 megawatt hours of power, which would be about a couple hours of the entire HEA system when our power use is low, like in the middle of the summer. And less if it's in the winter, like now.”
The electrical co-op in Kodiak is currently producing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, but McKittrick says that'd be tough to achieve on the Peninsula.
“The harder piece of replicating Kodiak's model is the large amount of hydro, which is a really flexible base load power. So to get all the way to a hundred percent renewable power like Kodiak did, we would need either a form of hydro, that is big. Or, other energy sources. Potentially tidal if it ever gets cheap enough, or others such as geothermal and energy sources that would be more stable,” she said. “To fill in the rest of that kind of base load power, because you can't really have a hundred percent of your power being variable.”
McKittrick and Thomas spoke during last week’s Coffee Table. There was also discussion about the potential for tidal-generated power in Cook Inlet. You can hear the whole conversation online at KBBI dot org, or on your favorite podcasting app.