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Dixon Diversion Hydro Project Would Be Alaska’s Largest in 30 Years

May 10, 2022 | Energy, News

Bradley Lake dam

The Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project north of Homer holds back a reservoir that could be fed by additional water from Dixon Glacier.

Alaska Energy Authority

The largest hydroelectric project in Alaska for thirty years is moving ahead. The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) filed a license amendment with federal regulators, the first step in the Dixon Diversion.

Enlarging the Reservoir

The project would be located five miles southwest of the Bradley Lake dam near Homer, currently the largest hydroelectric power plant in Alaska. Dixon Diversion could add power for up to 30,000 homes, on top of Bradley Lake’s current capacity of 54,000.

AEA, the state-backed energy investment authority, owns the 120-megawatt Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project, which generates 10 percent of the total annual electrical energy used by Railbelt electric utilities.

The Battle Creek Diversion, completed in 2020, increased Bradley Lake’s output by about 10 percent, so AEA is studying the Dixon Diversion to optimize Bradley Lakes’ energy potential further. Like Battle Creek, the Dixon Diversion would divert water from the East Fork of the Martin River into the Bradley Lake reservoir. The Dixon Diversion project, as planned, could increase the power output at Bradley Lake by almost 50 percent.

The project became possible in recent years as Dixon Glacier receded, creating a meltwater stream.

“We and our Railbelt utility partners are also planning to upgrade transmission and energy storage capacity to improve reliability and resiliency,” says AEA Executive Director Curtis W. Thayer. “These improvements will facilitate and increase the benefit from new renewable generation on the Railbelt, such as the Dixon Diversion.”

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The Railbelt utilities include Chugach Electric Association, Golden Valley Electric Association, Homer Electric Association, Matanuska Electric Association, and the City of Seward.

“I am planning for the near-term rapid growth of renewables on the Railbelt,” says Governor Mike Dunleavy. “The Dixon Diversion has the potential to be the largest renewable investment within the Railbelt since the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project was built thirty 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 twenty years from now. The Dixon Diversion is a big step towards energy independence.”

The development timeline includes five years of studies and permitting followed by five years of construction. The project’s estimated construction cost is between $400 million and $600 million. The funding source is yet to be determined.

“I appreciate the Governor’s vision and leadership on this important topic,” says Tony Izzo, CEO of Matanuska Electric Association and chair of the committee that manages the Bradley Lake Hydroelectric Project. “Alaskan leaders and visionaries of the ‘50s 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 diversify our energy mix, including clean, renewable energy for future Alaskans.”

AEA has scheduled a public meeting on June 14 in Homer to share additional information about the Dixon Diversion.

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