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Celebrating completion of Kotzebue’s wind-to-heat energy system

February 10, 2017




On Jan. 25, board members from the Maniilaq Association and Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA) conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the completion of an innovative energy project constructed in cooperation with ANTHC. The Maniilaq Health Center, located in Kotzebue and the region’s only hospital, is now experiencing the cost- and energy-saving benefits of its new wind-to-heat energy system.

The new system utilizes excess wind energy from KEA’s 3-megawatt wind turbine farm and directs this extra energy to a 450-kilowatt electric boiler in the hospital. This provides space heating at a discounted rate and reduces the hospital’s consumption of fuel oil. For KEA, the system provides a large electric load for grid stability, as well as an additional revenue stream, which benefits KEA’s customers.

The initiative is the latest in a series of innovative projects envisioned and undertaken by KEA’s General Manager Brad Reeve and Project Engineer Matt Bergan. Under Reeve’s leadership, KEA has become a pioneer of incorporating utility-scale renewable energy in rural Alaska. The first wind turbines were installed in 1997 and capacity has since grown as more and larger turbines were added. In 2012, two large 900-kilowatt wind turbines were installed, which gave KEA the capacity to produce excess wind energy.

“This project combined cutting-edge innovation with community commitment and federal support to create a win-win result for everyone. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced fossil fuel consumption, and sufficient savings to fully pay for the project within four years is outstanding. It wouldn’t have happened without the superb work of Matt Bergan and Brad Reeve of Kotzebue Electric, the excellent engineering and project management provided by Praveen KC and Craig Wood of ANTHC Environmental Health and Engineering, and most importantly the enthusiastic support of the Maniilaq board, the maintenance staff of Maniilaq Health Center, and the IHS Environmental Steering Committee,” said Will Fraser, ANTHC Statewide Health Facilities Manager.

The project was born out of necessity in coping with record-high fuel oil prices in recent years. In 2012, the hospital spent more than $2 million on energy costs and more than $1 million alone for fuel oil. The hospital consumes approximately 164,000 gallons of fuel oil annually. The new system is expected to cut the hospital’s heating oil consumption by 20 percent and will save approximately 32,000 gallons of fuel each year.

“The system went online Dec. 14 and to date, we have avoided use of about 3,000 gallons of fuel oil,” said Adriel Perry, Maniilaq Hospital Facilities Manager.

The project was jointly funded by grants from the IHS Environmental Steering Committee and the Alaska Energy Authority Renewable Energy Fund. Along with Electrical Power Systems, the project was designed by ANTHC Design Engineers Praveen K.C. and Dave Reed. The project was co-managed by Maniilaq Hospital Facilities Manager Adriel Perry, ANTHC Project Manager Craig Wood and KEA Project Engineer Matt Bergan.


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