Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
October 2020

Vol. 25, No.42 Week of October 18, 2020

Igiugig sees successful hydrokinetics

In-river turbine generator undergoes its summer maintenance after 10 months of successfully generating power for the village

Alan Bailey

for Petroleum News

Following a full 10 months of successful operation, the hydrokinetic power generation system for the village of Igiugig, near the western end of Lake Iliamna in southern Alaska, has undergone its summer maintenance, Ocean Renewable Power Co., manufacturer of the system, announced Oct. 5. The system at Igiugig is now the longest operating water current energy converter in the United States - during its 10 months of operation the underwater turbine that drives the system completed more than 7 million revolutions, ORPC said.

Underwater turbine

The system involves the anchoring of an underwater turbine generator with helical shaped turbine blades to the bed of the fast-flowing Kvichak River. Igiugig is situated adjacent to the river. The idea is to use hydrokinetic power from the river to displace the use of diesel generators for power generation for the village.

Following successful testing of a prototype system at Igiugig, in 2019 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a 10-year pilot project license to the Igiugig Village Council.

Phase 1 of the project has involved the installation of a single 52-foot-long, 35-kW RivGen turbine generator in the river. Phase 2 would involve the installation of a second RivGen unit.

Challenging conditions

ORPC says that the first 10 months of operation of the system involved undergoing a mid-winter frazil ice occurrence that subjected the system to mobile debris without observed negative impacts. The system successfully underwent spring breakup, with ice from Lake Iliamna flowing down the river. Monitoring of the system has not uncovered any negative environmental impacts or direct impacts on adult sockeye salmon, ORPC said.

Lessons learned from the operation of the first RivGen device are being used in the design of a second device that is being built for installation at Igiugig, the company said.

“ORPC needed to prove the technology, and our village needed to prove that it didn’t impact our fish resources, could survive our harsh environment, and be handled with equipment we have on hand,” said Igiugig Village Council President AlexAnna Salmon following completion of the summer maintenance. “Together, what we’ve achieved to date is remarkable and worth sharing. With the recent purchase of our battery energy storage system, we are looking at the potential to go diesels off in 2021.”

“The valuable experience and training that our local workforce has gained through this project can’t be understated,” said Igiugig Village Council Vice President Karl Hill. “The Igiugig community now has the capabilities to deploy and retrieve the RivGen device with very little help from outside contractors. Our growing autonomy and skill set around operation and maintenance of the system make the project much more cost effective for us.”

Renewable energy potential

“The success of Igiugig’s hydrokinetic turbine in the Kvichak River demonstrates MHK (marine hydrokinetic) technology’s promise to make significant contributions to the renewable energy mix,” commented Chris Rose, executive director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project.

ORPC CEO Stuart Davies said that, with the appropriate support, the deployment of MHK technology could grow rapidly, potentially providing power for more than 100 million people and creating hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing, engineering and marine industry jobs. The technology can provide reliable, baseload renewable energy, he said.

In addition to the use of private investment, the Igiugig hydrokinetic project is supported in part by funding to the Village of Igiugig from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technology Office and Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, ORPC said.

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