AEA files for Dixon Diversion to increase Bradley Lake output
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The state is proceeding with plans to further increase output from the Bradley Lake hydroelectric facility on the Kenai Peninsula, following the 2020 completion of the Battle Creek diversion project, which increased output by about 10%.
In late April the Alaska Energy Authority, in partnership with the Railbelt facilities, filed a license amendment with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in what AEA called an initial step in pursuing the Dixon Diversion.
Bradley Lake, the largest hydroelectric plant in Alaska, a 120-megawatt facility, generates 10% of the annual electric energy used by Railbelt electric utilities, providing some of the lowest-cost power in the state.
“Similar to Battle Creek, the Dixon Diversion would divert water from the East Fork of the Martin River into the Bradley Lake reservoir,” AEA said May 4, and could increase power output at Bradley Lake by almost 50%.
AEA said the project timeline includes 5 years of studies and permitting, followed by 5 years of construction. Estimated cost of construction is between $400 million and $600 million, with no source of construction funding yet determined.
Renewal investment“I am planning for the near-term rapid growth of renewables on the Railbelt,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy in the May 4 release. “The Dixon Diversion has the potential to be the largest renewable investment within the Railbelt since the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project was built 30 years ago. Natural gas prices have only risen while the cost of renewable energy has plummeted, and Alaska needs to consider where it will be 20 years from now. The Dixon= Diversion is a big step towards energy independence,” the governor said.
“We and our Railbelt utility partners are also planning to upgrade transmission and energy storage capacity and to improve reliability and resiliency,” said AEA Executive Director Curtis Thayer. “These improvements will facilitate and increase the benefit from new renewable generation on the Railbelt, such as the Dixon Diversion.”
Tony Izzo, CEO of Matanuska Electric Association and chair of the Bradley Lake Project Management Committee, acknowledged the governor’s “vision and leadership on this important topic.”
“The Bradley Lake Project Management Committee works to ensure the reliable operation of the biggest renewable asset in Alaska,” Izzo said. “Alaskan leaders and visionaries of the 1950s and 60s recognized the power generation potential of this glacier fed lake. Because of their vision and expertise, ratepayers benefit from the low-cost power of Bradley Lake hydro today. With the Governor’s support, we are working to diversity our energy mix, including clean, renewable energy for future Alaskans.”
The Railbelt utilities include Chugach Electric Association, Golden Valley Electric Association, Homer Electric Association, Matanuska Electric Association and the City of Seward.
Initial consultation documentThe FERC filing is an initial consultation document for a license amendment.
“The purpose of the amendment is to gain authorization to divert water from the Dixon Glacier to generate additional power,” AEA said in its April 27 FERC filing.
AEA said it is investigating the feasibility of developing the outflow from the Dixon Glacier of the East Fork of the Martin River for additional water supply to increase power generation, and will “seek FERC authorization for the construction, operation, and maintenance of a new diversion system at the toe of Dixon Glacier that would divert flows from the East Fork of the Martin River,” increasing hydropower at Bradley Lake and/or developing a new Martin River powerhouse.
There are alternatives in the filing, but, AEA said, “under any alternative the proposed action would include potential modification of Bradley Lake Dam and construction of a new diversion that would result in a significant change in the normal maximum surface area or elevation of Bradley Lake.”
A joint agency and public meeting for the Dixon Diversion Project will be held June 14 from 5-7 p.m. at the Aspen Suites Hotel in Homer followed by an agency site visit on June 15.
AEA said it held an informal outreach meeting Feb. 8 with representatives invited from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
- KRISTEN NELSON