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Igiugig recieves federal grant to improve hydropower project

Ocean Renewable Power Company

The village will use the first round of funding to study how the RivGen unit interacts with out-migrating smolt, as well as ice flowing out of Lake Iliamna. 

The village of Igiugig has been awarded $392,500 dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy to make improvements on a hydropower system that could replace the use of diesel fuel for the town of 70 on Lake Iliamna.

The RivGen Power System, developed by the Ocean Renewable Power Company, has been successfully tested in Kvichak River outside of Igiugig for the past two summers. 

But there are still logistical challenges, and the village plans to use this new grant to continue tweaking the system to make it easier and cheaper to operate. 

"The first season we deployed it, it required two fishing vessels and a Flexifloat and two excavators, and it was just a massive operation. And then efficiencies were made, and the next deployment season it just took pretty much a 32-foot fishing boat to deploy," says AlexAnna Salmon, the President of Igiugig Village Council. "So we’re looking at making that even easier so community can handle floating the device and sinking it easier."

One major logistical challenge is that the RivGen must be removed from the river each spring while the ice flows out. Salmon says that used to be a predictable two-week window, but now the warmer winters are disrupting that schedule.

“Like right now, we’re at 40 degrees in the beginning of March. And this is often our coldest month, and right now there's no ice in the lake," said Salmon. "Last winter, we had two ice break-ups. So we wanted to study more on ice to see how it interacts with the device, if it’s possible to keep the device in if minimal ice is flowing down the river.”

Another environmental factor that concerns the village is how the turbines could affect the young salmon going out.  

“The device was installed at the peak of the sockeye salmon return last summer, and over a million swam by it, and there was no harm to fish," explained Salmon. "So we know that the adult salmon are in the clear, so this would be focusing on out-migrating salmon smolts.”

The third round of testing, along with the new smolt research, will begin this summer.

The Department of Energy has approved $392,000 for the first phase of the project, and the village could be selected to receive the rest up to $1.1 million dollars more in funding.

Eventually, the village aims to supply 100% of its energy needs using two of the RivGen units.

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