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AVEC's New Bethel Wind Turbine Expected To Displace Hundreds Of Thousands Of Gallons Of Diesel Fuel

A wind turbine stands outside the Yukon Kuskokwim Fitness Center. AVEC plans to erect a larger, 900 kilowatt wind turbine near the Bethel airport in 2018.
Dean Swope

A new, large wind turbine is coming to Bethel. Anna Sattler, the Rural Liaison for the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, says that the 900 kilowatt wind turbine is expected to be delivered next year, and it will be the largest turbine in AVEC's fleet, by a factor of nine.


Sattler said the electric cooperative has purchased the $1.9 million turbine, and it should arrive in Bethel via barge in 2018.


With an estimated total project cost exceeding $5 million, AVEC partnered with the Bethel Native Corporation to apply for federal funds to help buy the wind turbine. The bulk of the project costs will be paid by the Alaska Renewable Energy grant received by the City of Bethel in 2009 and transferred to AVEC by the City.


The electric cooperative plans to erect the turbine near the airport. 


It's going to be hard to miss the new tower with its long, spinning blades. It's almost 300 feet tall, similar to the larger wind turbines installed by Kotzebue Electric Association in recent years, but not as big as the wind turbines on Fire Island, which are 1,500 kilowatts each. 


Sattler says that the new turbine will reduce the cost of generating electricity in Bethel by displacing about 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year. 


Homeowners that use less than 500 kilowatt-hours a month are not going to see much difference in their bills, because the state's Power Cost Equalization program reduces the rate for most residential consumers.


"When our rates go down, PCE goes down," explained Sattler. "But if PCE were ever to go away or be reduced, as it has many times in the past, having wind and having these other resources in the community is beneficial in the long run."


Seventy-five percent of the electricity in Bethel is used by customers who are not eligible for PCE, and their fuel charge will decrease by about six percent with this turbine. 


The larger consumers of electricity, like local schools, corporations, and businesses paying unsubsidized power costs in Bethel, may notice the difference in their bills after the wind generator goes online.  


The Bethel region has a good wind potential because the wind is steady, but not too strong.