Currently, natural gas is used to create the bulk of the power utilized on the South Kenai Peninsula. The Bradley Lake Hydro-Electric Plant supplies the Homer Electric Co-Op with a significant amount of electricity, but much more renewable energy sources are continuously being evaluated. The member-owned utility, according to HEA’s Dave Thomas, has some big ideas.
“By 2025, we want to be at 50% renewable energy, rather than putting all of our eggs in the natural gas basket, where we currently obtain approximately 80%, 86% of our energy.” And it will mean continuing to pursue other hydro projects in the long run,” he said. “However, in the short run, increasing the use of solar and wind power on a utility-scale since those are the sources of energy that are currently available and can be added in a few years.”
HEA has erected the largest battery storage solution in Alaska, up in Soldotna, to help smooth out the often-unpredictable energy flow from renewables like wind and solar, as per Erin McKittrick of Seldovia, who is a member of HEA Board.
“It’s produced by Tesla, and we began the process of putting this massive battery up in Soldotna in 2019, and it’s already charged and operational.” “I’m not sure if all of the testings have been completed,” she explained. “When our power demand is minimal, as in the center of the summer, it saves 93 megawatts (MW) hours of electricity, which is about a few hours of the whole HEA system.” And even less if it’s winter like it is today.” Although electrical co-op in Kodiak presently generates 100% of its energy from renewable sources, McKittrick believes that would be difficult to achieve on the Peninsula.
“The vast amount of hydro, that is a fairly flexible baseload power, is the more difficult part of recreating Kodiak’s strategy.” So, to get to 100 percent renewable energy like Kodiak did, we’d need either a large hydroelectric plant or a wind farm. Alternatively, there are different energy sources. “Tidal, if it ever becomes affordable enough, or others like geothermal and the energy sources that are steadier,” she remarked. “You can’t possess a hundred percent of the power being variable, so you have to make up the rest of that sort of baseload power.”
HEA (Homer Electric Association) is a member-possessed electric provider that serves the Kenai Peninsula’s center and southern areas. The Cooperative is administered by a 9-member chosen Board of Directors and delivers inexpensive, reliable, and high-quality energy services to members.