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Alex Gimarc: Chugach Electric board starts its move to renewables


The August issue of the Chugach Outlet notified the Chugach Electric Association membership that studies are under way for renewable energy projects.  

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The lead article noted that Chugach issued request for proposals seeking projects that could provide at least 100,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy per year. 

They selected a pair of projects, a 122-megawatt wind farm west of Mount Susitna and a 120- megawatt solar farm near Point MacKenzie. There is a third 500-kilowatt solar project on Chugach property in Anchorage that is also being studied.  

Each of the projects would provide two to four times the desired renewable power, something the new Chugach Electric Association board majority believes they need for their renewable portfolio.  

The studies are supposed to determine grid impact, integration costs, and economic impact to the system. Note that The Outlet piece does not mention cost of any of these proposals. Apparently, they are free.  

The problem with free stuff, as every single man has learned with varying levels of pain at a young age is that the free stuff is often the very most expensive stuff. And Biden Administration funded renewables will be very, very expensive to Chugach members, most likely in sharp increases in monthly electric costs and sharp decreases in overall system reliability. Yes, this means blackouts.

Chugach’s most recent dalliance with renewables was the 18-megawatt Fire Island Wind farm which came online in 2012. For several years, its real time output was visible on the Chugach website and its additional costs were broken out on our monthly bills.  

But over the last 11 years that has gone away, likely due to the complexity associated with the merger with ML&P. Rates are detailed in a complex document called the Electric Service Tariff.  

Chugach reports that Fire Island produces about 30% of its rated output. In contrast, its hydro and natural gas generation runs in the 90 – 95% range.  

This variability is a critical feature of proposed renewables and leads to all sorts of integration problems. The more renewables there are, the more difficult it is to keep the electricity in the system at constant levels. In places like California and Texas, with high penetration of renewables into their grids, this variability has led to system instability and blackouts at the most inopportune times.

Depending on whose bogus numbers you believe, somewhere between 10 – 30% of renewable penetration into any electric system renders the system unstable.  

Given that the Railbelt is around 850 megawatts, that number is 85-255 megawatts, so use 20%, 170 megawatts as a ceiling, with smaller being better for keeping the lights on. And the Chugach Board is toying with bringing more than that online to meet some sort of carbon free or renewable portfolio requirement.  

Renewable advocates, like the ones recently elected to the Chugach Board, are very good at pointing to the shiny object of carbon-free future, zero emissions, and renewable portfolio standards as rationale for their lofty promises. 

The problem is while the feds can provide free money for new renewable installations, they never provide any money for storage or integration. And storage is the most important part or renewables, as it smooths out the highly variable output of the renewable systems. Storage for a renewable generation plant is as expensive as the renewable power plant.  

Instead, the advocates simply dump the variable output into the grid hoping it will all sort itself out via operational magic done throttling the output of existing generation, hydro and natural gas-fired turbines here in the Railbelt.  

Clearly, this is all in the early stages.  But if we have learned anything about renewables here and in the Lower 48 it is the following:

  • They are always more expensive for the consumer.
  • They are destructive to the environment (large physical footprint, windmill destruction of birds).
  • The more of them we use, the less stable it will make the overall grid.
  • Storage is never included.
  • Existing CO2 powered generation is rarely retired (in the US), as it is needed for backup when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

Given that thanks to the Left, we have transitioned into a low- to no-trust society, I would suggest that the time of “trust me” for these sorts of promises is long past. And if the Chugach Board isn’t answering obvious questions or holding public discussions with a complete array of supporting data and public information, it is because they don’t want you to know.  

I will follow this as it proceeds, writing from time to time as we find out more. Meanwhile, I will also be looking for a propane / natural gas-fired home generator, as cold and dark seems to be in our not-so-distant future if this board majority gets what they want.

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.



    • Facts like “CO2 powered generation”? This article is so riddled with mistakes, it’s like a high school student had Chat GPT write it. I take it by “follow this as it proceeds” the author didn’t bother to attend the wind energy conference held in Anchorage on Friday (September 8) where many of these “questions” would have been answered (dismissed). For instance, the cheapest power on the Alaska Railbelt comes from renewables–Bradley Lake hydro. And the impetus for CEA to be actively searching for independent power producers isn’t because of some ESG bent, it’s because Cook Inlet is running out of natural gas and importing LNG is going to significantly raise rates. Thankfully, serious engineers are looking at the issues of integration (and learning from the hundreds of other projects around the country) and Alex Gimarc can keep tabs on their progress.

        • You’re opposed to wind because of the cost, but you think using a very immature and unproven technology like Coal to Liquid (fuels) or small modular reactor nuclear power would be more cost effective? SMR’s aren’t even available on the commercial market yet and AIDEA had a boondoggle with CTL already…

          • Too many acronym leave some of us kind of lost. Common practice is to use the full words then ad the acronym in parenthesis the first time the acronym is used in a post or in an article, Many folks would like to learn but SMR, AIDEA, CTL ESG, tell me very little. I know it takes extra time for typing but I would sure appreciate having an increased chance to understand these posts. Thanks.

          • Jim, here’s the definitions…

            AIDEA, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority–Alaska’s quasi-private corporation created to expand development in the state.
            CEA, Chugach Electric Association
            CTL, Coal to Liquid (fuels)
            ESG, environmental and social governance
            SMR, small modular (nuclear) reactor–self-contained nuclear power device (think like the size of a typical garage, not hundreds of acres)

  1. Alex Gimarc, This is a very interesting article and Chugach needs to keep a light shined on their programs. We don’t need glittering generalities.

    Germany aims to obtain 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, 115 gigawatts of which should come from onshore wind and the government is targeting each state to set aside 2% of their land for renewables. Germany should provide some very interesting information over the next 7 – 10 years.

    Thank you, Alex, for keeping this topic followed and keeping us informed.

    • Germany’s having problems.
      The Institute for Energy Research opens with this in their February, 2021, piece “Coal Rescues Germany from Its Renewable Folly”:
      “Germany’s millions of solar panels are blanketed in snow and ice and its 30,000 wind turbines (do) nothing as the freezing weather has no wind resource to keep the turbines operating. Instead, the solar and wind units are drawing power from the grid powered mainly by coal to keep their internal workings from freezing up. Despite Germany being the poster child of Europe’s renewable future, the country’s Energiewende—transition to wind and solar power—is not working. The Germans have found that… coal can work in any weather and is the savior during cold months. The plan is that Germany will have to rely more on natural gas from Russia, coal power from Poland and nuclear power from France, importing power along huge cables, instead of building a huge fleet of batteries to back up its intermittent renewable power.”
      Looks like Chugach Electric officials are determined to reinvent the wheel, knowing full well it won’t work any better here than it does in Germany or apparently anywhere else.
      So… logic and technicalities aside, what do you think could be driving their mad rush to implement technology which they -and we- know will destabilize Alaska’s power grid?
      No right or wrong answer; looking for some perspective why the Chugach-IBEW team feel so compelled to lead customers down a path that doesn’t seem like it’ll end well for anyone.

  2. “They selected a pair of projects, a 122-megawatt wind farm west of Mount Susitna and a 120- megawatt solar farm near Point MacKenzie. ”

    The UK is seeing about 17% of what they were expecting from their renewables. Which means these massive projects that will have huge environmental impacts might provide about 41 MW. The Fire Island wind is actually doing surprisingly well compared to most wind generation projects.
    And, does anyone actually think Chugach will be able to turn down there generation using conventional fuels? These generators are not like the one you bring camping, it can take hours for it to come up to useable/generation speed. One does not simply turn the output up and down to react to the load.
    Finally, I think everyone who is driving electric cars should be required to charge them using nothing but these projects. If you want to get all green energy, get all green energy.

  3. I hope it negatively affects those that voted for this garbage the most. Black/brown outs and most importantly, raises in costs.

    • It’s going to affect the entire rail belt. Every utility is interconnected for redundancy, so when the massive solar plants get shut down for 7+ months a year, us disgusting yokels have to increase the output on our normal power plants to offset the reduced generation by CEA. We sell the power to Anchorage, but the wear and tear on our power plants is absorbed by the other utility companies and passed on to non Anchorage users

  4. Dead Swans,Geese, Eagles & every other species with Wind Farms, But the hell with wildlife we will go Green on the outside & Red on the inside like a Watermelon and you will knuckle under.

  5. What is interesting and quite sad is that the Leftists on the Chugach board think, or at least believe, that they are making environmentally “correct” choices. Environmental impacts from “correct” sources of energy may, in the long run, be quite severe. An excellent example are batteries headed to landfills. Or bird kills from wind turbines. Leftist environmentalists believe so much of what they are told but in reality don’t know very much and will parrot propaganda. But rest assured they will dismiss anyone who asks pointed questions. The arrogance is nauseating.

  6. Mr. Gimarc… you clearly latch on to recent print articles that you are not qualified to interpret, exaggerate them and draw unsupported conclusions. There’s nothing about adding unreliable generation that introduces blackouts. It only means that you are adding generation capacity that you know will be reliably unreliable.

    Your prior articles hare similarly flawed. You should avoid topics you clearly do not understand.

    • Alex Gimarc…the former CEA Board of Director?? I think that you, Trouser Bark, should avoid commenting on things that you clearly do not understand. Or, perhaps you too have served in a like capacity? – Cheers

      • Justin… a better response would be to refute my comment but you cannot. The next thing you should ponder is that understanding electrical systems is not a prerequisite for a seat on Chugach’s board. Hasn’t been since the days when Chugach was a genset operating in half of a ship’s hull pushed up on the Anchorage tidal flat.

  7. With geoengineering anything is possible and it will destroy our planet. Solar though? It is a known fact – even in msm – that geoengineering is going on to dim the sun because “the earth is getting too warm.” Just how is solar supposed to work when there is no sun? Southcentral has had more gray days than sunny days – maybe like 85% gray days. I think that we get to have sunshine when the globalists are coming to Alaska to see how their take down is going. Pete Butthead in the White House is head of transportation and our Alaska DOT wants input on how we can reduce our carbon usage. Is butthead also pushing us towards wind and solar?

  8. My interest in Alternative sources of energy started on 1972.
    As a Boy Scout project I build a passive solar storage shed.
    We have used solar power for the last 23 years at our cabin. The short of it, you are fool to expect solar to provide stable electricity in Alaska period.
    Through junk science and the manipulation of data, it still cannot hide the obvious.
    It is dark in Alaska when electricity is needed the most.
    My system has solar panels and large deep cycle batteries. For me to switch to modern lithium batteries is not cost effective. Not to mention the dangers of lithium batteries. Energy storage is the key. In my case my energy is primarily generated by an internal combustion engine. Storing energy has reduced the running time on my generator by 60%.
    Therefore it has been cost effective for me. Note batteries have a life cycle and over time become less efficient.
    For MEA and CEA not to mention the storage of energy is a deliberate attempt to hide both the REAL costs and how lame Wind/Solar are in Alaska.
    These Fools on the CEA board like the Fools on the MEA board, will be using monies from the Feds, that is adding to the Federal Deficit. CEA/MEA then purchase solar panels made in China.
    One unspoken truth about the wind mills on Fire Island, the cost of electricity went up the day the Wind Mills went on line. Why? The kilowatt rate that CEA was paying for Gas generation was too low for the Wind Mill generation to operate. Therefore the kilowatt rate was increased, and passed on to the consumer. There is the proof it is a joke.
    Have you heard the latest, CIRI wants out of the wind mill business.
    A model for power generation done by private individuals in Eagle River should be followed throughout Alaska. Over 800 homes get reliable electricity from Hydro generation, with zero impact to the environment. System has been online for years, with plans for expansion.
    Or Why not use Fission small scale power? Like the system being implemented in Elison AFB.
    Sidebar, Germany through their Woke mentality cannot generate reliable electricity using the sun and wind.
    With no gas coming from Putin, Germany now purchases its electricity from Nuclear produced electricity from France. So do not listen to the Fools on MEA and CEA boards. Reliable electricity is what people want. That starts with clearing all the danger trees within the distribution system. Last week in the Central Business district of Eagle River we had two power outages that were over 4 hours each in six days.
    So to me the Boards of MEA and CEA are all full of shit on their primary responsibility, reliable power. Like natural gas. After all over 1600+ climate
    Scientists have said that there IS not a crisis with the climate. Therefore it is OK to question the propaganda being pushed by Climate Industrial Complex.

    • The hydro power in Eagle River was a great success, and the Janke family overcame a lot of government obstacles in order to make it happen. Nobody was getting rich from it, and they fought them throughout the process. But in the end they successfully brought substantial power to the grid year round. Too bad projects like this are not supported. Kind of like the landfill, where it is illegal to remove trash to up-cycle. Hippocrates.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and information! This is the type of information we need to be submitting to AK DOT in response to their request for suggestions on how we can reduce our carbon output. The failure of going green in other countries needs to be pointed out to our AK DOT since they seem to be turning a blind eye to worldly events.
      Trig, glad to hear about the Janke family’s success and I agree that this type of innovation needs to be brought out to the forefront in our efforts to combat the illegal government and come up with achievable alternative energy sources during this type when the illegal government is looking at cutting off all of our heating and electricity sources. Our governor needs to tell the White House, “NO, we are not going to comply” and for all of us Alaskans to stand behind him if he would. We have to tell the illegal government that we will not go along with their schemes, otherwise we are giving them permission to continue with their illegal edicts and orders.

  9. A natural gas generator in your home has definitely become a sensible alternative. Or better yet, a neighborhood run generator. Otherwise, electricity will soon become an expensive luxury.

  10. The left operate on some basic principals predominantly power and control, then feelings. For those in leadership it is power and control, and then they use emotion to manipulate the masses to approve of what makes one ‘feel good’.

  11. Alex, Didn’t the Chugach News say that they have a new “mother board” or what ever they call it, to better integrate the (very unstable) Fire Is wind? I know it was a problem guessing the amount of wind generation daily & reducing fossil accordingly to accept it when they started, but I thought I read they have a new system set up now to better do that job. As a conservative I am hoping for the success of “free” energy, but I guess any savings will be ate up by the compensation given to employees (since the IBEW will be involved)

    • Threr is nothing “free” about fire island or any other green initiative.
      Every one of these green methods being proposed, hands down, cause more harm to our environment, and therefore, “the climate”, than oil and NATURAL gas.
      There is no accounting for stupid people in large grouos.

    • Depending on who’s bogus numbers you believe, we have spent over a trillion dollars chasing wind and solar and outside of storage, haven’t managed to solve the variability problem. This is partly due to the nature of natural gas and water generation turbines. Neither are designed to throttle up and down at short notice. Doing so shortens their operational lifetimes, which takes us right back to storage.

      So you have to have someplace to dump the excess generation when it is bright and sunny or when the wind is blowing. In the wind business, it is pretty easy to feather the blades and dump wind. Not so easy to dump solar. And when the output from a large renewable plant varies from second to second, the rest of the grid simply can’t keep up.

      The other problem is sheer complexity of having to deal with a changing output on a second to second basis. Until their new motherboard can predict the future, it really doesn’t matter how responsive it is. When output from your renewables spike up or down, you are in blackout land. Cheers –

      • That’s a scary sentence: “Until their new motherboard can predict the future, it really doesn’t matter how responsive it is.”
        Isn’t there a push by the globalists to use AI to control the weather? Alaskan skies are being sprayed every day. With HAARP, local RAD sites, 5G towers, and maybe satellites and/or high altitude balloons – are there now enough controls being put in place for AI to control the weather world-wide? If they control the weather – they control the world, including the food supply.

  12. I want to know the bird death count due to windmills for at fire island.

    To the west and south of Mt. Susitna lies the Susitna Flats State Game Refuge. To the west of that lies the Trading Bay State Game Refuge. Both of these areas see the migration and nesting of many, many thousands of ducks, geese, swan and Crane.

    These refuge areas appear on aviation charts with the following note:

    “Pilots are requested to avoid flights below 1,500 ft AGL (above ground level) (helicopter) and 1,000 ft AGL (fixed wing) from April 1 to May 31 and August 15 to October 31 within 1 mile of a line delineated by the coastal mud flats and vegetated marsh, DUE TO LARGE CONCENTRATIONS OF MIGRATORY BIRDS.”

    What is the opinion of ADF&G on this?
    Were they given the opportunity to comment?

    I believe bird death by windmill is a fineable offense and utility companies just see the fines as a cost if doing business.

    This is a major flyway. This is a really bad idea for many reasons.

  13. In my opinion, it’s far to easy to accept grants, subsidies and handouts than it is to produce something viable.

    There’s lot of vote buying going on with someone else’s money as evidenced lately by all of the tours from the DC crowd which has resulted in the national beat being as big as it is!

    It’s unfortunate but I think there are so many lined up with their hands out or wallets open for the paychecks during the building of said projects that this ship may be to big to stop or even slow down!

  14. There’s enough geothermal energy across the inlet to produce energy to meet all our needs. Like Iceland. Why they are stuck on wind and solar is about money. If they took a portion of the money being used for outdated internet technology and developed this source of power we would have no problem. But again, it’s about feeding politicians not the environment.So we are stuck with solar when we cannot convince the sun to shine.

    • Chugach took a long look at geothermal from Mount Spurr 2009 – 2010 or so. Contractor (Ormat if I remember correctly, who does a lot of geothermal projects worldwide and is good at it) did a survey and drilled some wells around Spurr. While there is heat from the magma, the underlying rock formations don’t support the hydrothermal system necessary for geothermal generation – too broken up to too great a depth. Bottom line is that it wasn’t economic to put in a 75 MW geo plant at Spurr.

      An alternate would have been a tunnel through mountains around Chakachamna, draining lake water thru turbines to produce electricity. That would have worked but was never adopted for a number of reasons. We went with the SouthCentral Power Plant instead, which was 10 – 15 years late at the time. Cheers –

  15. If you want to do renewable, windmills can’t survive here.
    And Birds don’t mix too bad with them.
    I’d rather put in tide-powered generators into the Cook Inlet.
    I have a couple concepts on that that seem realistic. And do-able.
    But the Chinese Wind-mills are a total snafu.

  16. There may be many true statements in this opinion piece but Chugach’s gas generator fleet capacity factor is not 95% or anything close to it. Chugach has over 800 megawatts of gas generation at its disposal for an average load of 220 megawatts. Simple math will tell you that chugach’s gas fleet capacity factor is less than 27% (actual use divided by total generating capacity). While you’re at it, ask your friendly Chugach board member why on earth they have 800 megawatts of gas generators to serve an average system load of 220.

  17. Thank you. This list really helps. I had figured out was CEA. I will need to cut and paste this into a temp location so I can refer back to it.

  18. Yeah solar power will work real good. Just take a look at our most recent Summer. So sunny. (Sarc)

    We may have a chance with solar energy if the jets would stop seeding clouds into our skies. (Not talking about chemtrails, but the very real and observable fact that contrails spread out and block our sun. Look for yourself if you don’t believe me)


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