Unalaska city eyes wind power as geothermal project simmers
The City of Unalaska is once again considering wind power as a potential energy source, something the council has taken up in meetings as far back as 1999.
Things ramped up in 2018 when the city contracted a consulting firm to assess the feasibility of a wind power project on the island.
V3 Energy, a renewable energy planning firm from Anchorage, set up wind-measuring towers, known as MET towers, at four locations on Unalaska, Amaknak and Hog Islands.
V3 then analyzed the data, taken between 2018 and 2021, and presented their findings to the council in November.
The company determined that wind energy is feasible in Unalaska, perhaps not surprising for a place sometimes referred to as the “birthplace of the winds,” and that an area in the Pyramid Valley was among the most suitable locations for a wind farm.
The study arrived during a fraught time in the city’s relationship with power. The city entered into a 30-year agreement to purchase power from the Makushin Geothermal Project, a vast undertaking that aims to generate power from the volcano of the same name approximately 13 miles from the city center.
Unalaska Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson said the city might have to alter the agreement, “if we go down this road of producing power with wind.”
“We have a current power purchase agreement in place with OCCP, of which we’ll have to change,” Robinson said.
The council agreed unanimously to apply for a $4 million grant to continue exploring wind power, but the city is not required to accept the money, even if the grant is awarded.
“We don’t have to accept the grant, it’s just kind of a backup plan,” Looby said.
Councilmember Thom Bell said he was in favor of moving forward with the wind project even if the geothermal project were to come online years down the road, saying he likes the idea of not putting all of the city’s eggs in one basket.