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Mike Craft: Alaska Environmental Power.

Mike Craft, part owner of Alaska Environmental Power (AEP), came to Alaska in 1981 from Virginia with his wife Kathy. With $16 dollars between them, they drove into Delta Junction and flipped a coin: Would it be Anchorage or Fairbanks? Fairbanks won. At first, Craft worked as a line cook and sous chef, then moved into construction.

The oldest of five in a military family, he's lived across the United States, in Germany and Okinawa. While here, Craft's family flipped homes every two years, eventually purchased tracts of land for subdivisions, developed a gravel pit and bought excavation equipment. Craft figures he has recorded a dozen subdivision plats, and built dozens of houses and more than 10 miles of roads

For several years, he's studied the Alaska energy market and renewable energy. Given his construction background, developing a 24-megawatt Delta Junction wind-farm project wasn't such a stretch.

He credits his success to his family and in part to his two Fairbanks business partners, Richard Clymer and Marvin Hall. He says he also garnered substantial support from Sen. Mark Begich and his staff in resolving Federal Aviation Administration issues relating to the Alaska military complex. Craft also appreciates the Army and the Air Force for being a part of the environment-impact solution facing Fairbanks and the Interior.

ABM: How's the view from the top at AEP?

Craft: I am concerned about the quality and costs of living and working in Alaska. Fairbanks has for at least 10 years failed to meet the clean air standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. We have done a poor job of securing future energy resources in Alaska. We are facing 10-year planning gap, with no real sustainable energy resources in sight, such as gas and hydro power or clean coal. My role is to be part of the solution. By putting as much as 20 percent (174 MW) wind power on the Railbelt grid (870 MW), we can have stable rates and good jobs. My family lives in Alaska and I'd like them to stay.

ABM: How have economic/environmental challenges affected AEP's efforts?

Craft: The impacts of substandard air quality in the Fairbanks area have strengthened the need for renewable energy development, and the EPA has forced the local government to begin to address the issue. With the high avoided cost of fuel and electricity, in conjunction with the 30 percent capital reimbursement opportunities offered through the federal stimulus package, it is possible to compete with the avoided cost of diesel-generated electricity. Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) currently produces 60 percent (137 MW) of power with fuel oil.

ABM: Share some community successes and primary obstacles.

Craft: The Sustainable Natural Alternative Power farm in Healy has proven our capability of developing renewable energy on the Railbelt grid. It has been producing electricity for two-and-a-half years, leading to development of the Delta Junction wind farm. AEP has two turbines, totaling a megawatt, on a 320-acre plot there. Our local utility, GVEA, has developed an experimental power-sales agreement for the 1 MW on line now. The Alaska Energy Authority was instrumental in awarding a matching grant to move forward with the 900-kW EWT (Emergya Wind Technologies) turbine. Success led AEP to take formal steps toward a 24-MW wind farm, with completion planned in 2011.


ABM: In the renewable energy debate, what's most at risk?

Craft: Besides the air quality in Fairbanks, sustainable lifestyles and stabilized power rates; also, the creation of hundreds of jobs. We can't continue to produce power in the Interior solely with hydrocarbons and expect to expand and enhance our community.

ABM: How would renewable energy use affect power rates here?

Craft: It would stabilize rates in the short term and eventually lower rates.

ABM: What are your other enterprises?

Craft: We operate a gravel pit, are involved with a gold-mining venture and have several real estate projects. We are developing emerging technologies relating to renewable energy production using tidal power, and also a new battery system. We also are looking at several other wind sites across Alaska.
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Title Annotation:View from the Top
Comment:Mike Craft: Alaska Environmental Power.(View from the Top)
Author:Stomierowski, Peg
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Article Type:Interview
Date:Aug 1, 2010
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