Hydropower

Alaska has enjoyed a long and rich history with hydroelectric power. By 1908, southeast Alaska alone had over 30 developed water power sites with a capacity of 11,500 kW. The vast majority, built by private developers, provided power for industrial operations, mainly for the gold mining works in Juneau and on Douglas Island. Today, hydropower in Alaska provides 24% of the statewide electrical power. Major developers include the State of Alaska and public and privately owned utilities who have an interest in hydropower development to meet the needs of Alaskans. These power plants have proven to be long-term, reliable and relatively inexpensive sources of power. Hydropower installations have the reputation for being robust and durable, operating successfully at some sites for more than a century. Hydropower’s low operation and maintenance costs coupled with long lifetimes result in stable power rates.

In Alaska, hydropower is currently the largest and most important producer of electricity from a renewable energy source. With increased interest in replacing fossil-fuel-powered generation with renewable energy resources, the statewide inventory of installed hydropower capacity will continue to expand. The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) provides assistance to those interested in pursuing hydropower as an energy producer. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for the issuance of licenses for hydropower projects. FERC also oversees compliance at projects as well as dam safety and inspections.

The State of Alaska has approved developing alternative sources of energy such as hydropower to meet future energy demands. The first large-scale hydro project to be approved is the Susitna River hydropower project which is just west of the Copper River watershed. This project would require building a 700 foot dam with a 30 mile long reservoir which will be two miles wide on the Sustina River.

Humpback Creek  and Power Creek hydroelectric projects in Cordova are operated by the Cordova Electric Cooperative (CEC) to meet the resident’s electricity needs. Power Creek is operating at full capacity and the city of Cordova is working to bring Humpback Creek up to 100% capacity. Cordova uses Humpback and Power Creek mainly during the summer months. 

 

Power Creek Hydroelectric facility in Cordova, Alaska (Cordova Electric Cooperative)

 

 

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