Hydrokinetic System Project Successful in Igiugig
The cost of electricity in Igiugig in nearly 80 cents per kilowatt hour, but the national average is 10 cents. Igiugig relies on diesel generation. One company set out to show how inexpensive and effective a hydrokinetic power system could be.
The Ocean Renewable Power Company’s RivGen power System is a 25 kilowatt system designed to reduce the cost of electricity to remote communities located near rivers. Hydrokinetic systems, like RivGen, refers to energy technologies that capture the energy in moving water and convert it to electricity.
This summer, ORPC set up in Igiugig. Director of project development for ORPC Alaska Monty Worthington says RivGen is a lot like a wind turbine underwater.
“The RivGen power system is particularly designed to work in rivers, harness that flowing energy and specifically work with remote diesel micro grids to generate power that integrates with those diesel micro grids and offsets the use of diesel fuel for energy production.”
Worthington says RivGen is smart from both an environmental and economic stand point. RivGen produces no emissions and uses renewable energy. Being able to produce power without using diesel means the community doesn’t have to ship and then store diesel, which can be environmentally unsafe. It can also be expensive.
“On the economic side, it gets you away from the volatility associated with fossil fuels. You never really know what the price is going to be from year to year, and this can lead to large over estimates or underestimates or what your power's going t’ cost. With the RivGen you’re looking at a stably priced energy resource that is cost is capital cost of installing the system and operation and mainatence costs which you would be well understood.”
Worthington says ORPC chose Igiugig because of the river it’s near. The Kvichak River is swift, so it can produce bountiful amounts of energy. The waters in the Kvichak are usually clear, which Worthington says is important because the company needs to be able to see the turbine. ORPC used the turbine to conduct studies on how the fish in the river were impacted by and reacted to the turbine.
Worthington says ORPC was inspired by how interested the people of Igiugig seemed.
“We also were attracted to the site because the village of Igiugig had been very proactive in pursuing renewable energy in general and particularly had expressed in hydrokinetic energy. They were working with a grant from the Alaska Energy Authority to develop a hydrokinetic test site there. So they were very interested in that technology and invited us to test our technology there. They’ve been an awesome partner in this project and really helped us to move the technology down the road with the help on the site and the local contractors that made it a possibility.”
The RivGen in the Kvichak was funded by the Emerging Energy Technology Grant that the state of Alaska funds. ORPC is taking the technology back to the lower 48 where it will try to market the RivGen commercially to communities similar to Igiugig.