Pillar Mountain Wind Turbines (File Photo)

KODIAK — The Kodiak Electric Association is taking the next step toward expanding the Pillar Mountain Wind Project as it applies for a potentially multimillion-dollar state grant.

The next phase of the project would double the number of turbines on the mountaintop above Kodiak. It also includes an “energy storage system” consisting of either batteries or a series of flywheels that would help Kodiak’s power grid cope with fluctuations caused by the increased wind power production, said KEA president and CEO Darron Scott.

“We’re working on potentially doing that by the summer of 2012,” Scott said, “but that may slip to summer 2013. You can’t put up a wind turbine in winter.”

The KEA board of directors gave Scott the go-ahead to apply for the state grant during its meeting Thursday, and Scott said the approval gives the cooperative plenty of time before the grant application is due Aug. 26.

The grant is funded by the Alaska Energy Authority Renewable Energy Fund, and Scott said the cooperative could receive $8 million if the state fund meets KEA’s application in full.

The likelihood of that depends on the competition, Scott said.

“It depends on who puts in for it. You all get rated, the Alaska Energy Authority puts in its recommendations, then it gets sent to the Legislature and it goes through the budget cycle,” he said.

During construction of the first three Pillar Mountain wind turbines, KEA received $4 million.

Application caps have since been doubled, allowing the larger request.

According to the AEA’s official schedule, winning projects will be submitted to the Legislature by Jan. 27, with final approval coming no later than Aug. 1, 2012.

In other business, the KEA board received an update on the maintenance project at Terror Lake Dam.

Power generation at the dam stopped for scheduled maintenance, but crews discovered a leak in a drain line that had to be addressed.

“At the end of this week, we should have the plant back,” Scott said, but added that the schedule may change if additional problems are found. “Inside the tunnel’s a difficult place to work.”

The extended downtime means KEA’s diesel generators have had to work longer than expected, something that may be reflected in future bills. The extent of that is not yet certain, Scott said.

“We’ve got to get this project wrapped up and then we can do some accounting on it,” he said.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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