Sustainable wind energy for Southcentral Alaska

Fire Island Wind Project

Fire Island Wind LLC owns and operates a 17.6 megawatt wind turbine project on Fire Island, three miles off the coast of Anchorage, Alaska. The project began delivering clean, renewable energy to Anchorage homes in the fall of 2012. Currently, the 11 wind turbines located on Fire Island have the capacity to power approximately 7,000 homes in Southcentral Alaska.

Fire Island Wind helps ease the strain on dwindling natural gas supplies in Cook Inlet, eliminating the need for an estimated 500 million cubic feet of natural gas each year. The project provides a viable, reasonably-priced new energy source for Southcentral Alaska and generates most of its power during the winter months when the Anchorage community needs it the most.

Through its parent company, Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), Fire Island Wind entered into a long-term power purchase agreement with Anchorage utility Chugach Electric Association. The 25-year agreement provides a flat net price of $97/MW-hour throughout the term of the agreement. CIRI is the region’s first major independent power producer.

Project Overview

Fire Island Wind is a commercial-scale wind project consisting of 11 GE XLE 1.6 MW wind turbine generators. The project has the capacity to generate 17.6 MW of power and is expected to supply more than 50,000 MW-hours of power to Chugach Electric Association annually. Fire Island Wind has the capacity to expand to a total of 33 turbines with a generation capacity of 52.8 MW.

CIRI collaborated with nearly 100 local businesses during development and construction. Fire Island Wind is a testament to the ability of CIRI to develop, manage and operate large-scale projects, on-time and on-budget, that benefit its shareholders, the region and the state of Alaska.

The project’s benefits:

  • Capacity to power approximately 7,000 Anchorage homes
  • Eliminates up to 500 million cubic feet of natural gas consumption annually
  • Diversifies Southcentral Alaska’s power generation resources
  • Long-term power purchase agreement improves power price stability
  • Capacity to expand in the future

Project History

Chugach Electric Association surveyed Southcentral Alaska during the late 1990s for potential commercial-scale wind sites to diversify its power generation resources. Chugach identified 22 potential sites and selected Fire Island as the best location based upon:

  • Prevailing wind conditions
  • Proximity to the existing Railbelt power grid
  • Setback from residential and commercial customers
  • Minimal environmental impacts
  • Lack of conflicting land-use issues
  • Land ownership

CIRI owns 3,200 acres on Fire Island. In 2000, Chugach approached CIRI about developing a wind farm on the island. CIRI agreed to the concept and during the early 2000s worked with Chugach and other Railbelt utilities including Municipal Light & Power, Golden Valley Electric Association and Homer Electric Association to install wind-measurement equipment and start project development and permitting activities. Many years of reliable wind data and multiple wind resource and energy assessments confirmed that Fire Island has a commercially viable wind resource.

In 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved a limited 24-turbine project because the originally proposed 36-turbine project created potential interference problems with the FAA's VOR (short for VHF Omni-directional Radio Range) aircraft navigational aid that is located on the island. The decision prompted CIRI, at its own expense, to build a new VOR at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to replace the VOR site on Fire Island.

Regulators granted the project's key environmental permits in spring 2009. In 2009 and 2010, CIRI started clearing tower sites, conducted an extensive geotechnical survey of the project site and constructed a road network on the island. The Regulatory Commission of Alaska approved a power purchase agreement between Fire Island Wind and Chugach Electric Association on Oct. 10, 2011, clearing the way for major construction to begin.

The new VOR at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport became operational February 2012. Parts and equipment, shipped from around the world, began arriving in Anchorage in the spring of 2012 for the major construction phase. The project required a sea-life of 75 barge trips to move equipment to Fire Island. Workers also installed a 34.5 kV double circuit submarine transmission line to connect Fire Island to the Anchorage electrical grid.

On Sept. 24, 2012, Fire Island Wind began commercial operation. In its first quarter of operation, the project performed better than expected, helping to relieve a critical natural gas shortage during the winter months of 2012-2013.