Igiugig, a village of about 70 on the Kvichak River near Lake Iliamna, is in the process of converting to run on hydrokinetic power.
The village is only accessible by air and powered mostly by expensive diesel fuel. Ocean Renewable Power Co. installed an underwater turbine in October 2019 that generates power from the river’s current. “The river provides a fairly constant and measurable force that is readily available,” says village council president AlexAnna Salmon. “We hope that hydrokinetic power will lower the cost of energy in our community.”
The Kvichak is a rich salmon river. ORPC ran several tests and has been monitoring the turbine to determine if it has any impact on salmon. Small fish are able to navigate through the turbines, which spin slowly, and larger fish swim around the turbines.
Igiugig and ORPC plan to install another turbine in 2021. Together, the turbines could provide about 90 percent of the village’s power.
Salmon says the technology could benefit remote communities around Alaska.
“Many communities are established near rivers, which makes run-of-the-river devices an attractive choice for small, islanded communities,” she says.