Fire Island Wind Project enters 11th year in operation

CIRI hopes to produce even more sustainable power by adding turbines in the near future
CIRI hopes to produce even more sustainable power by adding turbines in the near future
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 6:48 PM AKDT
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FIRE ISLAND, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s officially been 10 years since the Fire Island Wind Project flipped the switch on renewable energy in Anchorage.

The eleven 1.6 megawatt GE wind turbines have been seen spinning from the west side of the bowl since September 2012.

On Thursday, Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) invited members of the media onto the island for a rare tour around the 5.5-mile-long stretch of land.

The island and project are owned and operated by the Native corporation, which sells the energy generated by the turbines to Chugach Electric as part of a 25-year power purchase agreement.

Vice President of CIRI’s Energy, Land, and Resource division Suzanne Settle said the project has been an overall success that the corporation would like to build upon.

“We’d definitely like to build out, continue building out Fire Island,” Settle said.

“We think we could put up to about 35 megawatts more on Fire Island, which would probably be about between 10 and 15 more turbines.”

The overall cost totaled around $89 million, with CIRI footing $64 million for the project itself with the state funding the rest to build out the transmission line to get the power off of the island.

All of the power generated is sold to Chugach Electric. According to a spokesperson, the company has bought about $45 million worth of energy since the island started producing.

The 5.5-mile-long island houses 11 wind turbines.
The 5.5-mile-long island houses 11 wind turbines.(AKNS)

That purchase does come at a 0.5% cost to Chugach consumers, appearing on an electric bill as “FIW Renewable Energy Adj.”

With CIRI looking to expand the operation, the electric company said it would be interested in accepting more Fire Island wind energy if it doesn’t increase costs to their members.

Currently, Fire Island Wind accounts for 2% of Chugach Electric’s generation.

According to Settle, the availability of the turbines to produce power has been 98.5% over the life of the project.

General maintenance is performed on the turbines by a subsidiary of CIRI, Fire Island Wind LLC. The Operations Manager of the LLC, Christopher Jimenez said that heavy maintenance occurs twice a year—in the spring and fall.

“Just like a car, as long as you keep up with the recommended manufacturer policies to take care of them, they last quite a while,” Jimenez said.

According to Jimenez, in order for the turbines to engage in generation, winds must be sustained at 3 meters per second for five minutes. High winds above 25 meters per second will trigger a storm shutdown system, where power generation will stop but the turbine’s blades still spin.

The turbines will continue to spin on the island that sits about 3 miles west of Kincaid Park, with 15 years left on the current power purchase agreement between CIRI and Chugach Electric.

“CIRI is just committed to doing the right thing for our community and for our shareholders who live in this region,” Settle said.

“We believe that clean energy is important to be able to sustain our planet.”