Daily News Miner
Key passages from a much longer article, 7/13/92
Fairbanks utility company may be close to obtaining state approval for
a new coal-fired power plant that officials say will be a key to the
region's energy future.
Critics say, however,
that the plant is unnecessary, unclean and that it might drive up power
rates in Southcentral.
If built, the Healy
Clean Coal Project would become one of the state's largest construction
projects this decade.
consultants, and economists were on hand Thursday as the Alaska Public
Utilities Commission wrapped up three days of testimony in Anchorage.
The commission must
decide if the proposed $208 million plant will help or hurt power customers.
Don Schroer, APUC
chairman, said he thought the commission will decide with a month whether
to issue permits. He would not say if approval was expected.
Mike Kelly, manager of Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks,
said the project has solid support. GVEA would operate the plant and
buy much of the power. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export
Authority, a state agency, would build it.
the end, GVEA, AIDEA, and the APUC commission staff all absolutely agreed
in the conclusion that the power plant should be built and it is the
cheapest available power. Normally you don't come in with that absolute
agreement," Kelly said.
Almost half the
plant's cost would come from a federal program to promote clean coal-burning
technology. The rest would come mostly from a state grant and a bond
issue by AIDEA.
The 53 megawatt
plant would be built at Healy, where Golden Valley already operates
a coal-fired power plant about half as powerful.
It would burn coal
from the nearby Usibelli Coal Mine.
Opponents say gas-fired
and hydroelectric plants around Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula
can send enough power north to keep the lights burning in Fairbanks
for years to come.
that the plant may come on line several years before the power is needed.
Plans call for the new plant to begin operating by 1997 and Golden Valley's
existing coal-fired plant at Healy and two North Pole oil-fired plants,
which between them make up most of GVEA's capacity, won't be ready to
retire until 2007, Kelly said.
But he likened the
proposed coal-fired plant in Healy to an unbeatable offer from a car
dealer - "You can either wait and pay full price or you can buy
it now and we'll give you 50 percent off," Kelly said.
Also he noted, the
time for a new plant in the Interior is not that far off, even though
GVEA has about 200 megawatts of capacity now and its peak demand in
the winter was only about 100 megawatts this year.
According to its
own policies, GVEA must have enough capacity to cover peak demand even
if its largest unit - a 60 megawatt oil-fired generator in North Pole
- is broken down. So even now, GVEA mush have a minimum of 160 megawatts
capacity, Kelly said.
And he expects that
the Fort Knox gold mine, being developed by Amax Corp. on Cleary Summit,
will increase demand here by 35 megawatts at startup time in a few years.
That in itself will bring GVEA close to needing more power, even without
expected overall growth in the Fairbanks area, he said.
Tje state's ;argest
power utility, Chugach Electric Association, opposes the new Healy plant,
but did not testify during last week's hearing.
the huge gas-fired Beluga plant on the west side of Cook Inlet. The
plant supplies much of Anchorage.
Dave Highers, Chugach
general manager, said the state will end up with far more power-generating
capacity than it needs and that could drive up rates for some consumers.
Highers said Golden
Valley buys about $2 million in power over the intertie line from Chugach
annually. If those sales dry up, Chugach would have to pay higher rates
for customers in Southcentral, he said.
Kelly said GVEA
customers shouldn't be obligated to contribute to Chugach's profits
when they have the opportunity to obtain cheaper, more reliable power
here. Besides, he said, GVEA will continue to use substantial amounts
of Chugach power if the Fort Knox mine comes on.
executive director for the environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska,
condemned the construction of another coal fired plant that would sit
near the entrance to Denali National Park.
He said Alaska should
use its clean-burning natural gas reserves and avoid burning coal despite
federal grants targeted for the fuel.