Project adds capacity to Alaska lake’s hydro power facility

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A $47 million Alaska water diversion project is expected to increase flow to a lake and eventually help generate low-cost power for utility customers.

The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported Wednesday that the Alaska Energy Authority began flowing water through its West Fork Upper Battle Creek Diversion Project Aug. 25.

The project will raise the amount of water in nearby Bradley Lake, subsequently increasing the practical power production capacity of the Bradley Lake Hydro Project by about 10%, project manager Bryan Carey said.

Bradley Lake, the state’s the largest hydro plant, annually produces about 380,000 megawatt-hours of power for six electric utilities in Alaska’s Railbelt region.

Bradley Lake power costs 4 cents per kilowatt-hour to produce, the energy authority said.

Because the project produces some of the cheapest power in the state, more is better, said Tony Izzo, CEO of Matanuska Electric Association.

“It’s pretty easy to see the benefit (of Bradley Lake) when you look at the numbers,” Izzo said.

The Bradley Lake turbines are rated to produce up to 120 megawatts of power but constraints have limited its average production to about 44 MW.

The supply of glacial-fed water stored behind the Bradley dam can be used by utilities to manage the variable portion of their electric loads and optimize operation of their gas-fired generators.

“We want our gas turbines to be at the sweet-spot” for maximum efficiency, Homer Electric Association Board of Directors Vice President David Thomas said. “You could argue Bradley Lake is the largest battery in the state.”