Damming rivers long has been a controversial means of harvesting the moving energy of this type of water body. What if we could harvest river energy though as it freely flows? That is the scope of an interesting hydrokinetic energy, or low head hydro power, project set to go online in the remote towns of Eagle and Eagle Village this week with the deployment of Alaska’s first 25-kilowatt low-impact hydrokinetic river turbine along the Yukon River. It is said that the in-stream turbine, developed by New Energy, is the first of its type to be placed into commercial service.
The Yukon River Hydrokinetic Turbine Project is being spearheaded by Alaska Power & Telephone Company (AP&T). It consists of a 4-blade vertical axis unit mounted on a floating platform that is slow spinning (22 rpm max) and produces no emissions, requires no dam and reportedly “poses very little risk to marine life.” The project, funded with the help of 3.2 million dollars in grant funding from the Denali Commission of Alaska, could perhaps make the town of Eagle Valley “the first in America to become powered solely by a renewable river-turbine hydrokinetic energy source,” especially after a potential expansion which could displace up to 57,000 gallons of diesel generation fuel annually for the approximately 200 residents of the two Yukon River communities.
AP&T said it has been working with the University of Alaska’s Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) as grant administrator to compile technical and engineering data about the project. It is also doing fisheries field studies in the Yukon this summer that will be conducted by the University of Alaska’s Fisheries and Oceanic Studies department. Groundwork for this project began in 2007.
“One of the primary objectives of this project is the continued displacement of fossil fuel-based energy within our company portfolio,” noted Ben Beste, AP&T’s lead project engineer, in a statement. “In fifteen short years we’ve transitioned from 98 percent carbon-based generation to a 70 percent renewable-based platform.”