Update March 2018

One of my technology action items – AMI (Smart Meter) infrastructure is happening. Most meters should be in this year with benefits for years to come. AMI can allow for a peak notification system, combined with another tech success that I advocated: an outage management system with visibility for our members. There are still improvements to be made, but we’ve made great strides.

Renewables are happening – Staff and a few of us board and MAC members spent a lot of time getting to a decision to build a 500 kw (kilowatt) solar array by our battery storage (BESS). It’s also happening this summer. To give you some idea of scale, an average house would probably install a 3.5 to 4.5 kw system.

I’d like to make sure our ability to leverage renewables includes better and upgraded storage medium and methods. It has been taking longer and been challenging to achieve commonality with the Railbelt transmission grid. When we do, it will open up doors for storage and better economies of regulation for all in the Railbelt.

GVEA Vision and Staying Abreast of Technology
by Gary Newman April 2015

It is no small truth that the cost of energy has imposed a real hardship on Fairbanksans and Interior Alaskans. Heating cost is the biggest ticket item with electrical use adding about 1/3 to 1/2 more for most families. Natural gas, long promised, may actually become available for some, but for most users is many years away. While natural gas can reduce the cost of operating the newer oil fired power plant (LM6000) in North Pole, we still use lots more electricity than it can provide. The Healy 2 coal plant may be operational in two years if things go well, but we’ll already be paying back the $185 million for buying and getting it going again. We are limited in what we can receive in cheaper energy from Southcentral by the existing transmission line limitation. There will be other challenges, but I do pledge to my time, experience, and knowledge for the benefit of our members as stated in the mission, vision and values of GVEA.
Staying abreast of developing technologies isn’t an either-or in meeting the needs of the membership. There are opportunities in increasing efficiencies in operations, with new equipment such as solid state transformers and switches making their way into the mainstream.
• Working to incorporate renewables into our system.
• Smart meters for those interested in monitoring and impacting their own consumption.
• A peak notification system whereby when GVEA has to burn expensive power, members can be notified so they have an opportunity to conserve for a period of time and save that expensive generation from being needed. (expanded on, below)
• Finding alternatives for meeting spinning reserves efficiently, perhaps through innovative storage methods now in their infancy.
• While consumption is going down partly through conservation and technology (e.g. CF and LED bulbs), there is a possibility that the market might support ground source heat recovery which use electricity for the pumps instead of consuming fuel oil.
• Increasing safety for field employees and reducing costs by the appropriate use of drones for power line inspections.