Golden Valley Electric Association: increased technology produces cleaner energy.
Celebrating more than 60 years of service to the Interior, Fairbanks-based Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) is enjoying a golden day. Incorporated in 1946, the electric cooperative is 100 percent Alaskan-owned and provides power to nearly 90,000 residents. Bringing electrical service to the Interior is something that GVEA has pioneered-literally.
A GOLDEN HISTORY
Agriculture was a key impetus-along with providing rural residents with a reliable power source--for the pioneers who first applied for a loan from the Rural Electrification Administration more than a half-century ago to initiate a not-for-profit electric co-op. Nowadays, the co-op features nearly 3,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines, along with 35 substations. It employs 245 Alaskans and serves customers in Fairbanks, Delta Junction, Nenana, Healy, Cantwell; also interconnecting with some of the region's heavy-hitters, like University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fort Greely, Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright.
Always on the lookout for increased reliability to its customers, the co-op has initiated a number of expansions and improvements through the years. Four years ago, it powered up its Northern Intertie, a 97-mile, 230-kilovolt line. Additionally, the GVEA serves as the northern control point for the Fairbanks/Anchorage Intertie, serving Alaska Railbelt towns. "Both interties allow GVEA to augment our 296 MW generation capacity with an additional 70 MW from the Anchorage area," according to a company history. Similarly, the co-op's Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) powered up in November 2003 and carries the unique moniker as the "most powerful battery energy storage system in the world in terms of MW output," the company Web site states. The system has the capacity to provide 27 megawatts (MW) for 15 minutes, or up to 40 MW for a shorter, more concentrated time. The system has already proven its worth time and again, preventing more than 300,000 potential outages since its start.
The co-op's electrical capacity is delivered via six regional generating facilities and a distinctive, self-sustaining configuration.
"GVEA is unique in that we own our own generation and transmission facilities. Outside of Alaska, there are only three other co-ops out of the 900-plus that own their own generation and transmission facilities," wrote GVEA President and CEO Steve Haagenson in announcing the co-op's 2006 annual report. "With power plants in Healy, Fairbanks, North Pole and Delta Junction, we own and operate 276 megawatts of generation. GVEA also owns a 20 MW share of the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric project near Homer. Additional power purchased from Anchorage puts us in the ballpark of 366 MW of available generation capacity. With our diverse mix of fuel--coal, diesel and naphtha in our Interior plants, hydro from Bradley Lake and natural gas from Anchorage--we can use one fuel to pinch hit for another if the price of one fuel skyrockets."
The co-op's power sources are diverse in their location, scope and output, and include the coal-fired Healy Power Plant (28 MW); oil-fired North Pole Power Plant (120 MW); oil-fired Zehnder Power Plaint (41 MW); Delta Power Plaint (27 MW); Bradley Lake hydro power (20 MW via the intertie). The North Pole Expansion Plant started up a year ago and adds 60 MW. "The plant uses combined-cycle technology to add 60 MW of generation at the existing North Pole Power Plant site," according to the company history. "The project entails a 47-MW combustion turbine with a steam turbine that allows us to generate an additional 13 MW. As demand increases, we can add another combustion turbine, raising capacity at the new plant to 120 MW. This plant will help GVEA meet its future power requirements."
Such additional capacity is particularly pertinent, given the forecasted energy needs on the horizon. "The addition of the Ground-Based Missile Defense, Pogo Gold Mine and the electrification of Alyeska's Pump Station 9 is expected to increase GVEA's demand to 230 MW in 2007," GVEA predicts.
The new North Pole Expansion Plant is one example of how GVEA is increasing its technology with an aim of producing cleaner energy. "The plant utilizes a state-of-the-art 47 MW LM6000 combustion turbine, a derivative of jet-engine technology," a company press release announced this summer. "Exhaust heat from this turbine is captured and used to feed a steam turbine to produce an additional 13 MW. The plant burns Naphtha, a clean-burning fuel, from the nearby Flint Hills refinery. Should natural gas make its way into the Interior, the plant will be able to utilize that, as well."
Two years ago, the co-op's board of directors formally conveyed its push for clean energy by adopting a "green power pledge," according to the company history. The goal of the pledge is to use renewable energy for 10 percent of the co-op's peak load by the close of this year. Anticipating its peak load at 230 MW for this year, the co-op created a variety of initiatives to meet the goal, including:
* Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project
* Energy$ense conservation programs
* Small-scale renewable power
* Green power partnerships
There are also co-op efforts like Sustainable Natural Alternative Power (SNAP), connecting those members who wish to produce green power with those members who wish to pay for it.
SAVING MEMBERS MONEY
In June this year, GVEA also announced its Co-Op Connections Program, which provides members with a discount card for local and national participating vendors.
Position This Year: 16 Position Last Year: N/A 2006 Revenues: $165 Million Alaska Employees: 245 Worldwide Employees: 245