Village of Igiugig one step closer to replacing diesel electricity with hydrokinetic system

The RivGen operating in the Kvichak River in 2015. (Image credit Ocean Renewable Power Company)

In the Southwest Alaska village of Igiugig, a renewable energy project recently got one step closer to helping the village move off expensive diesel-generated electricity.

The experimental device is placed in a river and uses the current to create electricity.

In late May, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the project a key approval that will allow them to install and test the technology for up to 10 years. After that, they could apply for a commercial licence.

AlexAnna Salmon is the president of Igiugig Village Council.

“It’s a hope for our village to achieve the sustainability we’re looking for,” she said. “It’s environmentally friendly. And we’ve just come a long ways in developing it.”

The council has been collaborating on the project with the Ocean Renewable Power Company of Maine since 2009.

The federal approval will allow them to conduct their first year-round test of the system in Igiugig. Among other things, they will be closely monitoring how the technology interacts with local fish as well as river ice.

“One year from now, we’ll know whether the community would like to own this device,” Salmon said. “If it really is going to prove itself to be an effective option for providing power.”

She said that, in the best case scenario, the village could be completely off diesel electricity by 2021.

If the project pans out, Salmon added, it can provide a useful blueprint for many villages in rural Alaska looking to move toward renewable energy.