Alaska Company Exploring Geothermal Energy on Mt. Augustine
Many people in the Kenai Peninsula get their electricity from natural gas. Geothermal energy developer GeoAlaska is looking to change that. Late last month, they began collecting data of magnetic and gravitational forces on Mount Augustine to determine if there are any viable geothermal reservoirs. Geothermal reservoirs provide the heat and fluid needed to generate electricity.
The project is currently funded by GeoAlaska founder Paul Craig, GeoAlaska stakeholder Erik Anderson, Ignis Energy and Shenton James Party, Limited.
Craig hopes to bring geothermal energy to Alaskans in the Railbelt Region.
“Our intention is to provide inexpensive power for generations to come,” Craig said, “So the Alaskan economy can develop with predictably reasonably priced, sustainable baseload power being generated without loading the atmosphere with more carbon.”
But, developing geothermal energy isn’t without its challenges.
According to the Alaska Energy Authority, a viable geothermal energy source needs enough heat and fluid flow, as well as a proper reservoir of geothermal fluids, which is what the current round of data collection will look for.
And then, there is the nature of the mountain itself. John Power, a research geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey Alaska Volcano Observatory, said that while it hasn’t been as active in recent years, they still monitor Mount Augustine in case of an eruption.
“There are about five volcanoes in the state that we consider to be very high hazard and Augustine is one of those,” Power said.
Other organizations are also looking into Augustine as a potential energy source. In May, the state legislature approved $17 million to go towards projects across the state. The money went into the Renewable Energy Fund. As a result, the Alaska Electric & Energy Cooperative of Homer Electric Association received a grant to fund their work as they determine the feasibility of transferring energy from the volcano to the electric grid at Anchor Point. Homer Electric Association is currently waiting to finalize the grant agreement before beginning work on the project.
Homer Electric Association director of member relations Keriann Baker said that if it is viable, Mount Augustine could increase the number of energy sources available to the Railbelt Region.
“It's a really good opportunity for us to diversify our energy mix so that we're creating energy from just a, a wide variety and we're not pigeonholed into any one resource,” she said, “For us, providing power at the lowest cost possible from a diverse, wide array of sources is our goal.”
Homer Electric Association agreed to collaborate with GeoAlaska on bringing geothermal energy to the region, although details of the agreement are currently not available to the public.
GeoAlaska’s data collection will continue for the next couple weeks followed by analysis and interpretation over the next few months.