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November 30, 2018

ORPC's Alaska village hydropower project seeks FERC license

Courtesy / ORPC Inc.
Courtesy / ORPC Inc.
Portland-based ORPC Inc. announced Thursday that it has submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a final pilot license application for the marine renewable energy project it's pursuing in partnership with the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig.

Portland-based ORPC Inc. announced Thursday that it has submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a final pilot license application for the marine renewable energy project it's pursuing in partnership with the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig.

The hydrokinetic project will produce electricity generated from water currents in the Kvichak River for the village using a RivGen Power System provided by ORPC Inc. The RivGen Power System utilizes in-stream turbines that require no dams or barrages, allow continued river navigation and operate sustainably in harmony with fish habitat. The innovative project is designed to help reduce reliance on diesel fuel and its environmental risks and stimulate Igiugig's economy through local employment and the lowering of electrical costs.

Igiugig Village Council is a federally recognized tribe and serves as the tribal government for the Village of Igiugig, an unincorporated community with a year-round population of 70 on the southwest tip of Lake Iliamna along the Kvichak River. Igiugig selected ORPC as its technology, project development and services provider after a competitive process in 2014.

Long-term solution

Courtesy / ORPC
Courtesy / ORPC
Portland-based ORPC's RivGen power turbine is lowered into the Kvichak River during its 2015 pilot test.

In 2014 and 2015, Igiugig and ORPC partnered on demonstration projects to verify engineering design, collect and analyze environmental data, and install, maintain and retrieve the RivGen System using locally-available personnel, vessels and equipment.

"Igiugig is guided by our mission to provide resources, programs, and infrastructure to enhance the quality of life of the villagers, and specifically to advance goals for renewable, sustainable energy," said AlexAnna Salmon, president of the Igiugig Village Council, said in a news release. "We are pleased to be working with ORPC to assist with long-term solutions to the community's energy challenges."

Igiugig's diesel-based electricity presently costs $0.91 per kilowatt hour to produce compared to the national average of $0.14 per kWh. With approval of the license application just submitted, ORPC and IVC will launch the hydrokinetic project in mid-2019 and with it, provide approximately half of the community's electricity needs.

A distinguishing feature of the RivGen Power System is its ability to seamlessly integrate with isolated power grids that rely on diesel generators such as Igiugig's, offsetting diesel fuel use and allowing generators to be shut off entirely. Installation of a second RivGen Power System is also being planned in Igiugig. Environmental monitoring will continue with this project, and Igiugig and ORPC will work closely with state and federal agencies to ensure there will be no adverse impacts on marine life.

'Positive step forward'

"This project is a critical and positive step forward in reducing the cost and environmental impacts of electricity generation in Igiugig and remote communities globally," said Christopher R. Sauer, ORPC chairman, co-founder and CEO. "The project's reliability and environmental suitability will be a catalyst for accelerated market adoption of marine renewable energy elsewhere in Alaska, and throughout northern Canada and other remote communities worldwide."

This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, according to the ORPC news release.

Other partners in the project include the Alaska Energy Authority, NREL Small Business Ventures and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Center of Energy and Power, the University of Alaska Anchorage and Intergrid LLC.

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