By Ray Mann, RMA Consulting Group
Alaska Business Monthly
Published: August 12, 2010
AKUTAN, AK — The City of Akutan is in hot water, but that’s a good thing. The first of two geothermal energy exploration wells has produced water in excess of 360 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the project’s geotechnical team, the early results point to a geothermal resource that could put Akutan on the fast track for developing Alaska’s first large-scale geothermal power system.
“The community has decided that renewable energy is our future,” said Akutan Mayor Joe Bereskin. “The results from our first test well make me optimistic that the future will be here sooner, rather than later,” he added.
Akutan is a volcanic island 730 miles west of Anchorage in the center of the Bering Sea fishery. The City hosts North America’s largest seafood plant, owned by Trident Seafoods. The plant processes more than three million pounds of fish products per day, making Akutan the second-largest fishing port in the United States, based on pounds delivered.
With existing demand, the addition of a new harbor, a project to build a new airport and marine link and other capital improvements, power demand could easily top ten megawatts during the next several years. The solution is clean, renewable geothermal energy. Geothermal energy should also be able to eliminate most or all of the need for heating fuel on the island. With this and other planned projects such as geothermal greenhouses, Akutan could well become the first fossil-fuel-free village in Alaska.
Project Manager Amanda Kolker says crews have been drilling for geothermal energy since mid-July, 2010.
“The Akutan geothermal resource is very hot at exceptionally shallow depths,” Kolker explained. “This, in addition to the remoteness of Akutan Island, has made the drilling program logistically challenging. But it is worth it. The results have already exceeded our expectations. Before drilling commenced, we could only speculate about the resource. All evidence pointed towards a high-quality and relatively accessible geothermal resource within several miles of the village, but now we have proof. We are very encouraged by the results so far,” she said.
The next step is to use the results of exploratory drilling to complete a preliminary design of the system and cost estimates that can be presented to investors. If all goes well, Akutan’s dependence on diesel fuel for power and heating could become a thing of the past in as little as two years.