Unalaskans know the island’s wind is strong — it can blow over 100 miles per hour.
Back in 2005, the city council funded a study to see if that wind could be used for power generation. The former city manager, Nancy Peterson, said that they basically concluded that it wasn’t possible because there was no technology strong enough to withstand Unalaska’s wind.
“We are now 12 years later,” Peterson said. “A lot of technology has changed. There have been a lot of tried and true wind projects throughout the state.”
In October 2017 the city decided to look into it again, and they sought out the help of Josh Craft of the Alaska Energy Authority.
“We all know that it is very windy here,” Craft said. “But we have to find the right wind resource and the quality of wind resource is very important.”
Craft has been advising the city since last fall.
During a recent visit to Unalaska, Craft drove around to look at places the city is considering placing wind turbines. He thinks there’s definitely potential here, but the crazy topography of this volcanic island does pose some challenges.
“The wind is very different even 100 yards away from you at any given time,” Craft said. “We really have to be site specific and figure out where the best place is.”
Sometimes Craft says, the best place to put a windmill isn’t necessarily where the winds are strongest; it’s a combination of finding a place with consistent wind that is not turbulent. A location like that will help protect the turbines.
The city needs to study the wind for at least a year. Craft recommends that multiple towers are set up around the island to get a better idea of which way the wind is blowing — and more importantly how consistently it’s blowing.
With lots of community interest in renewable energy, city councilors and residents are eager to find out if wind will be Unalaska’s ticket to a greener future.