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Geothermal test well drilled by Naknek co-op at King Salmon, Alaska

Location of King Salmon in Alaska/ United States (source: Google Maps)
Alexander Richter 10 Jul 2010

Naknek Electric Association is doing exploratory drilling at King Salmon, Alaska to determine the potential for geothermal energy.

“Exploratory drilling is under way in King Salmon to determine the potential for geothermal energy. The Naknek Electric Association, an energy co-op, is testing a geothermal well to see if developing the renewable resource is feasible.”, so local news.

“The geothermal project’s test well took more than 10 years to come together, at a cost of more than $20 million. If it proves to be successful, the association could provide affordable renewable energy to communities and villages across Bristol Bay.

“It’s a new industry for an electric co-op,” said Donna Vukich, the association’s general manager.

“It’s the first well out here, so we’re just trying to take all the information in,” said the association’s Stanley Burton.

At the exploration site for the Naknek geothermal project, a crew of two dozen is working to clean the well.

“We drilled it with mud, lots of circulation, so now we have an entry down there, so we have to clean all the mud out and get the full potential of the hot water,” Burton said.

“This is more in the range of hydro, where you protect your system and keep enhancing it and building on it and reworking it,” Vukich said.

Vukich says Naknek Electric relies on diesel right now, and it’s expensive. This year the association paid a bulk rate of $2.75 per gallon for diesel fuel, but it saw prices reach $4 per gallon two years ago.

“The cost of power is a moving target — it doesn’t go down as a rule of thumb, it usually just keeps going up and we’re unable to control costs,” Vukich said.

According to Vukich, the search to switch to a renewable resource began a decade ago.

“It’s been a long haul and we’re really excited about the results we’re getting, because when you drill a hole, it’s exploratory and you may or may not find what you’re looking for — and it’s like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so that’s where we’re at,” Vukich said.

It will require two test wells to prove whether this site will pay off. Another well is expected to be drilled right next to the first in September.

“Right now, we’re working on the financial package for that and to be able to get the job done,” Vukich said.

Vukich says the association chose geothermal because it’s a long-term investment.”

Source: KTUU