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Big benefits for Alaska villages

Isolated areas of Alaska are about to get an additional jolt of wind power through an ongoing project by Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC). The Anchorage-based company is installing three NorthWind 100 kW turbines in Toksook Bay, one of three villages on Nelson Island just off Alaska's west coast. The turbines will be integrated into the community's diesel power system. The project brings the total number of wind turbines in the company's widespread service territory to ten.

"It's a large geographic area," says AVEC's Bill Stamm. "Out of 52 villages, only one is accessible by road. We barge materials and fuel in during the summer months. In wintertime, everything is flown in. If we send a guy out on a job it can be like the equivalent of flying from South Dakota to Georgia to go to work."

Average yearly snowfall in Toksook Bay is one metre. "These turbines need to run at temps of 50-60 below zero [Fahrenheit] in winter and up to 80 degrees in summer," Stamm says. "So we've actually got a fairly small pool of turbine manufacturers to choose from. We look for simplicity of maintenance and technology. It's all kind of a trial basis and we purchased the first seven turbines NorthWind built."

AVEC is trying to gain approval for two more projects. "Our people are going through the economics to find out how many and what kind of turbines to get," Stamm says. "It's a continual funding battle," he adds. "But we're starting to show people how much wind can do."

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