River turbine to be tested at rural Alaska village

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm •  Published: May 29, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A company that hopes to build underwater river turbines as a clean power alternative to diesel in Alaska villages has unveiled a prototype due to be tested in July.

Ocean Renewable Power Co., based in Portland, Maine, showed off its RivGen Power System on Wednesday in Anchorage. The device built with backing from the Alaska Energy Authority and the Denali Commission will be installed in July on the bottom of the Kvichak River to generate power for Igiugig (ig-ee-AH'-guk), a community of 50 about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The device is a scaled-down version of turbines the company has built for harnessing tidal power.

"The good news is, sustainable river energy has now arrived in Alaska," said Christopher Sauer, ORPC chief executive officer.

The turbine is 40 feet wide and has two sets of 15-foot blades. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said it reminded him of a farm thresher.

In a river flowing at 6 knots, the blades will turn at 49 revolutions per minute. Company officials estimate it will provide up to half of Igiugig's electricity.

The unveiling in Anchorage was appropriate, Sauer said. He spoke at a 2007 Arctic Energy Conference about his company's devices that harness tidal power.

"People came up to use and said, 'Can't you make this smaller? Would it work in river?" Sauer said.

AlexAnna Salmon, president of the Igiugig Village Council, said heating oil sells for $7.53 per gallon in her village and the cost of commercial power is $1 per kilowatt hour.

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