Severe Winter Weather Tests Alaska Airlines’ First Renewable Energy System
NOME, Alaska. Severe winter weather was a significant test for Alaska Airlines’ first renewable energy system in Nome, Alaska. Alaska Airlines is the first domestic air carrier to use renewable energy to power an on-airport facility. The hybrid energy system is also likely a first for major airlines in North America. The success of Alaska Airlines’ Nome renewable energy system will dictate whether renewable energy systems will appear at Alaska’s terminals throughout Alaska.
This winter has been particularly unkind to the residents of Nome, Alaska. First, Nome experienced the equivalent of an arctic hurricane with sustained winds over 85 miles per hour. In January, temperatures dipped to near -40° F. On the heels of the climate extremes, an early freeze to Norton Sound left Nome without adequate amounts of diesel fuel necessary to heat and power Nome through the winter. The pursuit of rural energy solutions that transitions away from diesel fuel while withstand extreme temperatures led to Alaska Airlines’ foray into renewable energy projects at rural Alaska terminals.
In September 2011, Alaska Airlines commissioned a 1 kilowatt (kW) solar array and 6kW wind turbine at their Nome terminal. The Proven (now Kingspan) wind turbine is rated for winds over 100 MPH. Alaska Airlines also opted to equip the turbine with an arctic package for sustained production at temperatures below -40°F. Alaska Airlines’ wind turbine has continued to operate admirably through the extreme conditions. Most wind turbines of similar size stop producing power at wind speeds above 55 MPH. However, with patented hinged blades, the Proven wind turbine blades are able to flex inward in high winds to endure Alaska’s biggest storms.
“While we didn’t expect to encounter record winds and low temperatures within four months of commissioning the turbine, this winter’s weather events are the reason Alaska Airlines elected to go with the arctic-rated turbine,” said Heritage Renewables’ Kyle Smith, Nome project manager. “Nome encounters rugged weather so we needed a wind turbine equally as rugged.”
Proven wind turbines have also endured high winds and cold temperatures this winter in Port Moller, Kenai, Nome, Ninilchik, and Homer. Recently, Port Moller’s wind turbine has continued operating in winds of over 130 MPH. The Proven system was engineered and designed under the severest of conditions at a Danish research facility in the Antarctic. Alaskan Wind Industries (AKWI) installed Alaska Airlines’ wind turbine and continues to install turbines all over Alaska. AKWI is the only certified installer of Kingspan wind turbines in Alaska.
“We are finding more and more rural businesses and households searching for energy solutions to provide reliable power and incorporate emergency back-up energy systems”, says James Daggett, Alaskan Wind Industries owner. “Renewable energy systems in remote areas can provide lower cost electricity while offering emergency power when interconnected to battery systems.”
Renewable Energy System Facts
Proven 11 Wind Turbine – 6kW (Cold climate package with 29 foot tower)
Six (6) BP175B Solar Panels from BP – 1.05kW system
System produces ~15,000kWh annually (~6% of the building load)
Saving ~$5000 annually on electricity
Eight (8) year payback period
Save 375 gallons of diesel per year
Reduces 7600 lbs of carbon emissions per year