Shungnak power plant upgrades

The Shungnak power plant underwent a major upgrade. Three engines, three generators and all new automated switchgear were installed. The new diesel generators all have marine manifolds.  This means that the exhaust manifolds on the engines are cooled using the same water-antifreeze mix that is used to cool the main engine blocks.  The heat from the exhaust and engine block can then be transferred to other power plant buildings and community buildings.  The City’s water treatment plant already had a heat recovery system in place.  Now they can expect to get more heat from AVEC’s engines in the winter.

This past winter has seen a lot of preparation work on Northwest Arctic Borough’s (NWAB) Solar-Battery Project for Shungnak and Kobuk.   Funded through USDA Rural Utility Service High Energy Cost Grant Program, NWAB awarded Alaska Native Renewable Industries, (ANRI), Huslia, AK, the contract to install a 224kW solar array and 235kW/383kWh battery storage system. NWAB, ANRI, and AVEC have been working out the details of how to install and operate the hybrid system for the greatest benefit to the communities. There is a 10-mile tie line from Shungnak to Kobuk that will allow for both villages to benefit.

Having a large solar array will offset fuel use by supplying additional energy generated from sunlight. Power from the solar array will either be used to directly supply community loads or be used to charge the battery.  The diesel generators will work in conjunction with power created by the solar array and power stored in the battery to minimize the amount a fuel needed to keep the lights on.  The diesel generators will still be the main source of power, but it is anticipated that during some summer days the diesels may be turned off completely for hours at a time.

The ability to make this happen relies heavily on programable logic controllers (PLCs), and high-speed communications between all the components in the system.  AVEC took the first step in making this project possible by upgrading the power plant.  Now NWAB’s Solar-Battery project will provide the renewable energy needed to reduce fuel burn.  ANRI has hired Ageto Energy, Fort Collins, CO., to provide the controller to help integrate the solar panels being supplied by Daylight Energy Services, Fairbanks, AK, and the LFP battery from Blue Planet Energy, Honolulu, HI.

The benefits of having a large solar array, consolidates the maintenance and is collectively less expensive than having solar panels on individual residence. The communities of Shungnak and Kobuk plan to own and operate the solar array with the NWAB and sell the power generated to AVEC.  Instead of buying fuel from international companies the money to buy power will be going back to the communities they serve.

More information about this project can be found in the May edition of Ruralite.