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HEA provides updates on renewables at chamber luncheon

The Homer Electric Association office in Kenai.
Sabine Poux
The Homer Electric Association office in Kenai.

Homer Electric Association, the electric utility that serves much of the Kenai Peninsula, presented this week about its renewable energy projects and concerns of a natural gas shortage.

HEA General Manager Brad Janorschke presented about ongoing renewable energy projects and the utility’s future during a joint Kenai and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.

Janorschke said 90% of HEA’s energy comes from natural gas, but the utility is working on a variety of renewable projects. He described exploration of wind energy production, including a plan to put wind turbines on decommissioned oil platforms in Cook Inlet.

One effort he touched on was the Soldotna Landfill gas project, which is in its final design phase. HEA got more than a million dollars in grants and federal appropriations to study using methane gas produced from garbage in the Soldotna Landfill to generate power with an internal combustion engine.

“The landfill is owned by the borough, all of HEA members are also residents of the borough. So it’s a win-win,” Janorschke said. “In addition, it’s a great resource.”

Janorschke said that project should be up and running within 24 to 36 months. He said other renewables work includes exploring geothermal energy from volcanoes.

In response to questions about concerns of a Cook Inlet natural gas shortage, Janorschke said the utility is looking at importing liquified natural gas while expanding renewable sources. Without inexpensive gas, he said, rates will go up.

“The only way to change that is to get a.) cheaper gas and b.) have gas be a lower percentage of our generation. So, those are really the two options. We’re looking at solar, we’re looking at wind, we’re looking at geothermal,” he said.

Janorschke said cheap imported gas will put downward pressure on utility rates during the transitional period.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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