Renewable energy company testing river power technology in Igiugig
A Maine-based company is studying hydrokinetic energy and testing some of its technology in the Western Alaska village of Igiugig.
CEO and Co-founder of Ocean Renewable Power Company Chris Sauer joined Gov. Mike Dunleavy and others on the village's beach this week for a look at the company's RivGen Power System.
According to ORPC's website, "The RivGen Power System generates emission-free electricity from river currents and connects directly into existing remote community grids using smart grid technology. It consists of three major subsystems: shore-side power electronics, mooring system, and turbine generator (TGU) device."
"We started looking at areas where we could develop our tidal technology and our river technology, and it quickly became apparent that Alaska is really the best place to do our development of our RivGen Power System, our river technology," Sauer said.
This is the second time ORPC has tested its technology in Igiugig; it tested an older model back in 2015 that ended up providing one-third of the village's electricity needs.
The newest RivGen model will test the river year-round and focus on how the device could impact fish.
The 70 people who live in Igiugig currently get their power from diesel fuel. Village Council President Alexanna Salmon says RivGen could help ween them off that, which would be a welcome improvement.
"Right now we subsidize the cost of electricity and the state helps with power-cost equalization, and if either of those two factors change, our electric company is in danger because of the cost of diesel fuel," she said.
Salmon says that's not the only threat.
"Our diesel fuel farm sits at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon run on Earth, so that alone is dangerous for the environment. Flying the fuel in on increments, or even barging it on these waters, all are dangerous to the environment."
OPRC hopes to test the system in another village next year.
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