OSAW Past Winners

Last Year’s Winners (2016)

Ocean Renewable Power Company

Summary

Ocean Renewable Power Company successfully deployed the RivGen® Power System, a submersible hydrokinetic system designed for river and shallow tidal applications. RivGen supplied one-third of the power for the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig – demonstrating the viability of the marine energy technology for rural communities worldwide.

Background and Challenge

The cost of generating electricity in Igiugig is nearly $0.80/kWh (the national average is $0.10/kWh) due to its reliance on diesel generation. This project was a critical and positive step forward in reducing the cost and environmental impacts of electricity generation in Igiugig and “islanded” rural river communities of millions of people worldwide. Finding affordable energy is often key to their sustainability.

By successfully installing and operating a submersible hydrokinetic system designed for river and shallow tidal applications in a remote, off-grid community and offsetting the community’s diesel fuel consumption by one-third with economical, clean, locally-produced, renewable energy source, ORPC met and accomplished the goals set forth in this project.

Innovation

ORPC’s RivGen® Power System was designed to facilitate installation and retrieval using local equipment, resources and personnel. The turbine generator unit (TGU) is connected to an innovative pontoon support structure which is submerged and raised to the river surface using ballasting. This process eliminates the need for significant marine assets and can be achieved with the use of a small support vessel and an air compression unit.

Results

2015 RivGen® project highlights include:

  1. The successful “self-deployment” of the RivGen® device using only local vessels and labor;
  2. Interconnection with the Igiugig distribution grid, through which the RivGen® System delivered about one-third of the community’s electricity needs;
  3. Demonstration of the efficacy of ORPC’s latest technological enhancements;
  4. The collection of significant environmental interaction data during the project, including approximately 1.35 million adult sockeye salmon passing by the device in a 3-day period. Through the project’s biological studies, no obvious physical injuries to fish were detected, and no altered behavior by wildlife near the RivGen® device observed.
  5. The University of Washington, a partner in the Northwest National Marine Renewable EnergyCenter, participated in the project as part of a U.S. Dept. of Energy funded project to develop advanced control systems for marine hydrokinetic devices to improve performance of such devices in turbulent current conditions.

Stakeholder Quotes

On July 1, ORPC hosted Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in Igiugig to show her the RivGen® device prior to deployment. Following her tour of the RivGen® Project, Sen. Murkowski remarked,

“The system being tested at Igiugig offers tremendous promise for so many of Alaska’s nearly 100 villages located along rivers to finally be able to use the power of nature’s flowing water in an economic and environmentally sensitive way. This is an important project because it could provide a blueprint for how to reduce rural electricity costs in the future.”

“Igiugig Village has welcomed ORPC for another deployment season, and the community has participated in and watched each milestone with enthusiasm and support. The combination of the ORPC professionals with our local contractors has once again made an awesome team resulting in a very successful operation. The Kvichak River is now putting clean power into our local grid without a glitch and the community is triumphant!”

-AlexAnna Salmon, Igiugig Village Council President.

Tacoma Power

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Past Winners

2015 Winners

New York Power Authority

Frog Island Wetland Habitat Restoration

Summary

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has restored two acres of lost fish and wildlife habitat within the middle of the resource-starved Upper Niagara River, with its Frog Island Wetland Habitat Restoration Project, adding a key element that did not exist before: protection against the loss of this restored habitat. To achieve these goals, NYPA overcame especially challenging design and construction considerations, including the inherent high energy river environment, varying water levels, adverse weather conditions, a severely limited construction window, and the presence of the project within surrounding valuable habitat that could not be compromised. This was further complicated by additional competing constraints such as seasonal limitations for fish spawning, visibility to boaters, and the need for a modest appearance. These many variables were addressed with the aid of extensive stakeholder collaboration.

Background and Challenge

By 1985, the once-productive Frog Island area had been reduced to approximately 4.3 acres of largely un-vegetated shallows, and was no longer even visible in aerial photos. Contrarily, deeper waters surrounding this area featured dense beds of aquatic vegetation with high habitat and resource value for fish and waterbirds – scarce features in the highly industrialized Buffalo-Niagara corridor.

This degraded condition was attributed to many powerful erosive forces in the river, as well as to historic human-induced damage from decades of intermittent dredge spoil disposal and gravel mining. While the dredge spoil and mining activities are long discontinued, their impacts remain, and significant natural and human-induced erosive forces continue. The area is frequently subject to storm surges, wind-induced waves, boat wakes and ice scour. Returning Frog Island to its once ecologically productive, marsh-like conditions required that these erosive and other forces be permanently addressed.

Additionally, the project also could not compromise the surrounding deeper and valuably productive areas around it, nor impose a new hazard to boaters or a heavily armored appearance.

Innovation

To restore marshland habitat, two acres of the barren area were excavated to achieve varying depths, and their substrates enhanced with the addition of coarser materials, to sustain a variety of newly planted native emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation. Varying the depths provides sloped surfaces that allows plants (carefully selected for their sustained success in comparable reference marsh areas) to find their preferred depths and to thereby continuously adjust to seasonal and yearly variances in water levels. For wave and ice scour protection, a low-profile stone berm was built to enclose three sides of the newly planted area (the downstream side remains open), sitting largely within the former barren area footprint to avoid unnecessary damage to existing productive areas. In order to make up for the loss of protection that a higher, more massive (and formidable appearing) berm could provide, “plunge pools” were included on the insides of the berm at key areas to dissipate wave energy, and large boulders were embedded on the outsides of the berm to shield them from ice scour damage. Finally, the berm was augmented with raised planting beds, and hummocks were installed within the interior marsh to further soften the aesthetics and improve visibility.

Results

One major project goal, the stability and robustness of the berm, was successfully demonstrated before the dredging/excavation component of the project was even completed. A 50-year storm occurred in November 2013 when the berm had been mostly built, and it survived with no visible or measurable degradation or impact. The partially completed grading inside the berm also fared well and was not affected. The storm was severe enough to damage lesser structures along the river, however, the berm and the inside habitat features passed their first and likely one of its most severe tests. Also, the winter of 2013-2014 was one of the most severe in recent history in terms of ice buildup and, again, the nearly completed berm and inside habitat features proved to be unaffected.

Biologically, despite the project not being complete and before much vegetation had even been planted, a bird species that is rarely seen in the area, the Caspian tern (Hydroprogne caspia), began to colonize, at least temporarily, in significant numbers on some above-water portions of the berm. A few Common tern (Sterna hirundo), a New York State threatened species, were also observed.

Stakeholder Quotes

Paul Leuchner, a former Commissioner of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, praised NYPA for its “grass roots” collaboration model for the project, emphasizing how “…The end result is a quality project that maximizes the ecological benefit to the Niagara River and serves as a catalyst for eco-tourism within the Niagara River Greenway.”

Mike Clancy, a Regional Fisheries Manager for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, noted how the project “…benefits fish and wildlife by creating much needed critical spawning and nesting habitat. I was fortunate to observe many rare shore birds using the Island on a recent site visit.”

 

Pacific Gas and Electric

McArthur Swamp Wildlife Habitat Improvement

Summary

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has restored approximately 500 acres of wetland habitat on PG&E property located along the Pacific Flyway, the major flyway for migratory birds in the Americas that extends from Alaska to Patagonia. The restored McArthur Swamp has seen a 20-fold increase in migratory waterfowl who are benefitting from the feeding and nesting habitat which was constructed by PG&E in collaboration with California Waterfowl Association. The McArthur Swamp Wildlife Habitat Improvement Project (WHIP) created a mosaic of meandering swales, depressions, and loafing islands that are flooded annually with water from the adjacent Big Lake, the headwaters of the Pit 1 Hydroelectric Project.

Background

The WHIP is the restoration component of the 700-acre McArthur Swamp Management Plan required by the 2003 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for PG&E’s Pit 1 Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. 2687) with annual generation of 310 GWh. The McArthur Swamp is located in northeastern California in an area that is a critically important breeding and staging area for waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway. The McArthur Swamp property had been seasonal wetland before levees were built in the early 1900s to create cattle grazing land.

Challenges

PG&E had a license condition it could have met in any number of ways. Thanks to assistance from agencies and stakeholders, we developed a great project that will benefit many species for many years to come. The approach reflects PG&E’s strong commitments to collaboration and environmental stewardship.

There were numerous hurdles in the project development phase including the presence of endangered species, management of sensitive cultural resources, and design of the water source and water delivery system for the necessary flooding of the area.

McArthur Swamp and Big Lake, the primary water source for the project, are known to provide habitat to both federal and state listed wildlife species of birds and invertebrates.

Even at the late stages of project development, to address local concerns about using canal water for the restored swamp area, PG&E redesigned the project to utilize water from Big Lake. During construction, PG&E’s maintenance crew raised concerns about utilizing diesel pumps to convey water over the levees, including levee vibration, potential spills and emissions. The final solution was to install two large siphons.

Innovation

PG&E worked collaboratively throughout the design and construction phases with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife to avoid any impacts to the numerous special status species. In particular, to protect the endangered Shasta crayfish and protected rough sculpin, PG&E designed the siphon intakes with screens, and suspended the intake above the bottom of Big Lake.

To manage the flooding of the wetland area, PG&E constructed two water control structures with rip rap energy dissipaters and two large water supply siphons rather than diesel pumps. To protect the restored wetland habitat while maintaining beneficial land uses, PG&E constructed six miles of cattle exclusion fencing and three stock water troughs. Cattle grazing has become a component of the ongoing vegetation management.

Results

Through persistent collaboration and creativity, PG&E overcame numerous challenges to restore the environmental benefits of McArthur Swamp, while maintaining hydroelectric operations. After annual flooding began in 2013, the project provided high-quality feeding habitat, escape cover for adult waterfowl and hatchlings, and nesting habitat protected by water that keeps other animals from preying on eggs and hatchlings. In April 2014, CWA counted approximately 4,000-6,000 waterfowl at one time in the newly-restored McArthur Swamp, compared with less than 200 counted pre-project, demonstrating the project’s success. Birds now observed in the area include the protected bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and white-tailed kite, among more common waterfowl.

Wildlife are not the only beneficiaries of the project. When McArthur Swamp is flooded, water saturates the soil, which recharges the local ground water used as drinking water for local communities.

Just two years after completion of construction, the goals of this project have been exceeded. PG&E’s approach to work closely with stakeholders and resource agencies, use innovative ways to adapt to challenges along the way meant a successful outcome, With the help of others, PG&E is doing its part as an environmental steward to ensure wildlife thrive at McArthur Swamp. Our customers appreciate the efforts we take to improve the environment.

Stakeholder Quotes

Mr. Rick Maher, Northeastern California Regional Biologist, California Waterfowl Association: “After many years of a cooperative endeavor from all the partners and PG&E’s tenacious and dedicated commitment to the WHIP, it has made for a successful restoration and enhancement of 500 acres of McArthur Swamp. This project is the epitome of how a diverse team can take a plan on paper and turn it into reality. How gratifying, as a biologist and partner of the working group, that carried this project to fruition and to witness the awesome site of thousands of birds utilizing and benefiting from the newly restored habitat within this part of the Swamp.”

Tacoma Power

Little Falls Fish Passage Improvement

Summary

Tacoma Power’s improvements at Little Falls on the North Fork Skokomish River in Mason County, Washington, will help secure salmon and steelhead populations for years to come. The project provided many challenges for the team, which used innovation and intellect to overcome them. The project also helped the utility maintain its important relationship with the Skokomish Indian Tribe.

The flow of the river at Little Falls is divided into two channels, both of which were previously identified as barriers to fish. To help ease fish passage and keep the natural beauty of this culturally significant location, Tacoma Power collaborated with the Skokomish Indian Tribe and permitting agencies to carve a fish ladder into existing bedrock. Weirs were created to maintain water elevations along with resting pools and connecting chutes to allow fish to pass the 12-foot-high falls in a series of bursts.

With the project complete, adult fish can now migrate upstream to the base of Cushman No. 2 Dam to the fish collection and transportation facility.

Background

Little Falls has been recognized as a Traditional Cultural Property to the Skokomish Tribe due to its significance as both a fishing and hunting base. In the late 1920s, Tacoma Power constructed two Cushman dams. The dams restricted the flow in the Skokomish River, which created more obstacles for fish and constricted access for the Skokomish people, affecting their traditional way of life.

After a 36-year-long struggle to relicense the Cushman Hydroelectric Project, Tacoma Power reached a settlement in 2010 with the Skokomish Tribe and natural resource agencies. Among other requirements, the utility agreed to reintroduce and restore fish populations in the North Fork Skokomish River. This includes constructing two hatcheries, a collection and transportation system at the No. 2 Dam, and a floating juvenile fish collector in Lake Cushman. During this process, it was discovered that migrating salmon and steelhead would gather below Little Falls, and with current flow conditions, they were unable to successfully ascend and continue to the adult collector.

Challenges

Complications were attributed to accessibility, geomorphology of the bedrock, and the unknowns of a fish passage project constructed from natural materials. In planning, it became immediately apparent that hand excavation would be the appropriate method of construction. The only entrance to the site was a steep, meandering trail, approximately 700 feet long. The delivery of all tools, equipment and supplies and export of spoils required use of a helicopter.

Innovation

Other than Little Falls, Tacoma Power is unaware of a fish passage structure created entirely out of existing bedrock.

The goal of preserving a Traditional Cultural Property while still providing passage led to creative construction methods. Blasting was used to fracture the rock into reasonable sizes for hand removal during the first half of construction. The inconsistencies in blasting and the deterioration of the rock caused a re-evaluation of appropriate techniques. All parties agreed to complete the remainder of the side channel and the entire main channel using rock drills and chipping guns to remove rock more delicately. Although the timeline was hindered by this decision, it allowed the parties to make the changes needed without damaging the remaining rock.

Results

Tacoma Power was successful in creating a fish passage route while preserving the cultural integrity of the site for the Skokomish Tribe. Even with the setbacks, Tacoma Power adapted to the changes and finished in less than four months. Both channels are open and have successfully passed migrating fish. Biologists are collecting information about the fish passage effectiveness and hydraulics of the falls.

With the improvements, migrating salmon and steelhead can return to the Skokomish River and the population will continue to recover. The Skokomish people will once again be able to return to Little Falls and fish the river as their ancestors did.

Stakeholder Quotes

“The City of Tacoma has become an outstanding partner in the Skokomish Watershed community. After years of debate over the appropriate operations of the Cushman Hydroelectric Project, the Skokomish Indian Tribe and Tacoma Public Utilities, as well as State and Federal agencies, have an agreed-upon plan to guide management of the project, including natural and cultural resource protection, management and restoration activities.  Tacoma brought to the attention of the Cushman Fish and Habitat Committee (a formal body of stakeholder representatives) that the North Fork Skokomish River “Little Falls” appeared to be a barrier to fish passage. Tacoma worked with the committee to develop a plan to assess the potential barrier and to eventually develop fish passage improvements. The Skokomish Tribe is appreciative that Tacoma has been diligent in seeking the consultation and concurrence of the Tribe through every step of the process as this site is of great cultural significance.”

– Joseph Pavel, Skokomish Tribe, Natural Resources Director

McMillen Jacobs Associates

Community Involvement and Contribution in the Blue Lake Hydroelectric Expansion

DCIM100GOPRO

Summary

On Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska sits the small town of Sitka. Sitkans are known for being fiercely independent and very interested in all aspects of their community. Two years ago when the construction on the expansion of one of their two hydroelectric dams began, it was known that the Utility would have to keep the town informed and heavily involved but how? The City of Sitka Electric Department sought to keep the public engaged with the Blue Lake Expansion Project since not only were they directly paying for over 2/3 of the $150 million project, but also passing along those costs to future Sitkans over the 30 year bond payment. They came up with a series of efforts that proved to be amazingly successful at keeping the public informed and supportive which was a fundamental reason for the overwhelming success of the entire project, despite a substantial rate increase to pay for it.

Background

Sitka is a town of only 8,000 ratepayers and is located on the edge of an island. The only electrical grid is an islanded system completely run on hydroelectricity. In 1961 the Blue Lake Project was built just a few miles out of town. It consists of a single arch 210’ tall dam and a powerhouse with two horizontal driven 3 MW turbines.

In 2007, as the escalating cost of oil prompted the move to electric heat, Sitka was in desperate need of additional hydroelectric energy to eliminate the need for costly diesel generation. The solution was raising the Blue Lake Dam by 83’ and adding a new powerhouse with three new turbines to provide a total of 15.9 MW.

Challenges

The challenges began with bid opening. All bids were 50% greater than the estimate. This did nothing to soothe the negativity towards the project. Immediately, the City of Sitka began an open dialogue with to convince ratepayers this was the best long-term solution. At the end of the evaluation, the City Assembly voted 7 – 0 in favor of moving forward.

The City of Sitka, Construction Manager (McMillen Jacobs Associates), Owner (City of Sitka), and Contractor (Barnard Construction) began work on informing the legislative dignitaries and the locals. Normally, a project of this magnitude could lead to disputes. However, each company worked together to achieve goals—especially community involvement.

Ongoing community involvement for 1 ½ years paid dividends when the town’s drinking water needed to be switched from the pristine unfiltered Blue Lake water to highly filtered/chlorinated Indian River water. The challenge of asking a town to conserve electricity and drink “muddy” water was a feat. However, the community supported and participated in the project.

This town had not experienced a utility rate increase in 30 years. In order to meet bond covenants, the City of Sitka implemented 3 tiers of rate hikes in just 2 years. The rates were raised over 37% and could have produced a major backlash. However, through efforts of public education regarding why it was so important for them and future generations, something completely different happened.

Innovation

Prior to the start of construction, the responsibility to inform the public was great. A series of videos were shared online, aired on local access television, and presented at public meetings. The first video, Rain Power, explained why hydro is so important to the small town of Sitka. This film earned honorable mention at the 2010 Anchorage International Film Festival. The subsequent films were short public service announcements. The final film is yet to be produced but will encapsulate the project from inception to completion.

With video ready and construction beginning in December 2012, the time was ripe for innovative public education including construction site tours and indoor public presentations when the weather was poor. Before the first tour ran in April of 2013, the public was invited to visit websites including Facebook and YouTube. The social media presence proved to be most successful in drawing in residents for tours.

When the first sign up sheet was opened 2 weeks prior to the bus tour, each of the 100 spots on the 2-hour tour was taken in a matter of hours. The owner, construction manager, and contractor all participated to make the tour as successful as possible by collectively creating a presentation, a brochure, and a map of the tour. On a snowy Sunday afternoon in April, 100 Sitkans piled in to their community hall eagerly awaiting their first Blue Lake Dam tour.

The first tour’s overwhelming success led to monthly tours of the construction site April –September in 2013 and 2014. Each tour consisted of a presentation, a tour of the dam site and powerhouse, and a view of Alaska’s largest crane.

After 10 public tours with a total of 1,000 residents, people were buzzing with their new knowledge of the project. This education enabled the team to do their job effectively and efficiently with very little public pushback. This was most important during the biggest challenge of the project – the generation outage.

The team started a media blitz a month before the two-month outage and then weekly updates were sent informing the town of exactly what was going on. Instead of a small town in chaos, everyone banded together and toughed out the two months because, again, they understood what was on the line.

Results

This campaign has accomplished two goals. 1) Sitkans staked their claim to energy independence, and 2) They have clearly demonstrated to the nation that hydro is not a bad word. With collaboration among agencies, elected leaders, and local environmentalists—all with an intimate understanding of the community, we met this energy challenge.

 

Minnesota Power

Hometown Hydropower Rededication to Service

Summary

Minnesota Power launched “Hometown Hydropower” in May 2014 to help raise the public profile of the company’s hydroelectric system. The initiative came about two years after historic floodwaters raced down the St. Louis River, severely damaging Thomson Hydro, the heart of the company’s hydropower system, and forcing it offline.

In advance of Thomson’s return to service in November 2014, Minnesota Power decided to rededicate its entire hydroelectric system by highlighting individual hydro stations and reservoirs. “Hometown Hydropower” recognized the important role hydroelectric operations play in providing renewable energy to customers and celebrated more than a century of producing hydropower.

The initiative included a series of facility tours and public events at communities that host Minnesota Power’s hydro stations and reservoirs, creation of a commemorative medallion and time capsule, development of a website devoted to Minnesota Power hydropower, creation and distribution of a variety of educational fact sheets, installation of an outdoor informational sign at a popular reservoir, and donations totaling almost $90,000 to various community projects and organizations.

Background

Minnesota Power has invested heavily in its hydroelectric system in the past decade, especially at Thomson Hydro, the electric utility’s largest hydro station. After being damaged during the historic flooding in June 2012, company personnel worked to repair, renew and modernize the facility.

The flooding and related repairs brought a new level of public awareness to Thomson and by extension to Minnesota Power’s entire hydroelectric system. For decades, the hydro stations and associated reservoirs had quietly provided electricity and recreational opportunities. Here was an opportunity to publicly celebrate the company’s historical commitment to renewable energy and to the customers it serves.

Minnesota Power has 11 hydroelectric stations and 17 reservoirs, including six headwaters storage reservoirs, on three main river systems in Minnesota. The company has been producing hydropower for more than a century.

Hydroelectricity plays a vital role in how Minnesota Power is meeting the state of Minnesota’s renewable energy standards. The company’s EnergyForward strategy relies on hydropower, together with investments in other renewable energy, to build a more sustainable energy future.

Challenges

The company’s hydro facilities and reservoirs span hundreds of miles and operate in communities of varying size and demographic makeup. Minnesota Power called on employees throughout the hydro system to help personalize each event to the community or facility, while still tying in the key themes of delivering renewable hydropower, upgrading and rebuilding for the next century of service, and being proud to serve the customer and community. A simple ice cream social was appropriate at Prairie River while the company participated in a longstanding community festival in Ely, Minn., to highlight its nearby Winton facility.

A steering committee directed overall planning and employees were responsible for ensuring the success of each of the nine events. All of the communications—from event invitations to website development—were researched, written and designed by MP employees.

Innovation

Minnesota Power took an operations challenge—returning a flood-damaged hydro facility to production—and used it as a springboard to help educate the public about hydropower and the company’s hydroelectric system and strengthen relationships with customers and other stakeholders.

“Hometown Hydropower” told the story of Minnesota Power’s hydroelectric system through a variety of platforms, including facility tours, ice cream socials, barbecues, and printed educational materials. While the events and celebrations are over, other aspects of “Hometown Hydropower,” such as the popular commemorative medallion and website (www.mphydro.com), will continue to help generate interest in hydropower for some time.

Results

“Hometown Hydropower” got off to a strong start in May 2014 with an event at the company’s Fond du Lac Hydro station. About 100 dignitaries, employees, community members and others turned out for lunch, speeches and tours of the station and adjacent dam. By late summer, reports from other tours and events suggested that people were interested in hydroelectricity and its role in providing power. A company official at the event in Little Falls noted that many tour-goers were “amazed that we had so many hydro facilities.”

Over the course of about six months, hundreds of people learned about how Minnesota Power produces hydroelectricity near the communities where they live and work. The series of community events elevated the public profile of the hydroelectric system and strengthened Minnesota Power’s relationships and goodwill with residents, customers and other stakeholders.

Stakeholders

“Over the life of the project, MP was confronted with numerous engineering challenges and an unprecedented weather event. The successful completion of this project exemplifies the hard work and dedication of the Minnesota Power staff and represents a great example of how the federal government can partner with industry to create jobs and bring our hydropower infrastructure into the 21st century.”

– Jose Zayas, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, referring to a turbine replacement at Fond du Lac Hydro. His written remarks were part of the Fond du Lac celebration in May 2014.

“Hello again from Ely, Minn., and bushel baskets of thanks for the great job you did, not only explaining the history here, but including info about what MP is doing across the state, working on new projects, etc. Good PR is always a benefit, especially when one thinks about what MN Power achieves for us personally every day, minute, and hour of our lives!”

– Lolita Schnitzius, an Ely resident and former Ely mayor

2014 Winners

Ocean Renewable Power Company

Summary

Ocean Renewable Power Company successfully deployed the RivGen® Power System, a submersible hydrokinetic system designed for river and shallow tidal applications. RivGen supplied one-third of the power for the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig – demonstrating the viability of the marine energy technology for rural communities worldwide.

Background and Challenge

The cost of generating electricity in Igiugig is nearly $0.80/kWh (the national average is $0.10/kWh) due to its reliance on diesel generation. This project was a critical and positive step forward in reducing the cost and environmental impacts of electricity generation in Igiugig and “islanded” rural river communities of millions of people worldwide. Finding affordable energy is often key to their sustainability.

By successfully installing and operating a submersible hydrokinetic system designed for river and shallow tidal applications in a remote, off-grid community and offsetting the community’s diesel fuel consumption by one-third with economical, clean, locally-produced, renewable energy source, ORPC met and accomplished the goals set forth in this project.

Innovation

ORPC’s RivGen® Power System was designed to facilitate installation and retrieval using local equipment, resources and personnel. The turbine generator unit (TGU) is connected to an innovative pontoon support structure which is submerged and raised to the river surface using ballasting. This process eliminates the need for significant marine assets and can be achieved with the use of a small support vessel and an air compression unit.

Results

2015 RivGen® project highlights include:

  1. The successful “self-deployment” of the RivGen® device using only local vessels and labor;
  2. Interconnection with the Igiugig distribution grid, through which the RivGen® System delivered about one-third of the community’s electricity needs;
  3. Demonstration of the efficacy of ORPC’s latest technological enhancements;
  4. The collection of significant environmental interaction data during the project, including approximately 1.35 million adult sockeye salmon passing by the device in a 3-day period. Through the project’s biological studies, no obvious physical injuries to fish were detected, and no altered behavior by wildlife near the RivGen® device observed.
  5. The University of Washington, a partner in the Northwest National Marine Renewable EnergyCenter, participated in the project as part of a U.S. Dept. of Energy funded project to develop advanced control systems for marine hydrokinetic devices to improve performance of such devices in turbulent current conditions.

Stakeholder Quotes

On July 1, ORPC hosted Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in Igiugig to show her the RivGen® device prior to deployment. Following her tour of the RivGen® Project, Sen. Murkowski remarked,

“The system being tested at Igiugig offers tremendous promise for so many of Alaska’s nearly 100 villages located along rivers to finally be able to use the power of nature’s flowing water in an economic and environmentally sensitive way. This is an important project because it could provide a blueprint for how to reduce rural electricity costs in the future.”

“Igiugig Village has welcomed ORPC for another deployment season, and the community has participated in and watched each milestone with enthusiasm and support. The combination of the ORPC professionals with our local contractors has once again made an awesome team resulting in a very successful operation. The Kvichak River is now putting clean power into our local grid without a glitch and the community is triumphant!”

-AlexAnna Salmon, Igiugig Village Council President.

Tacoma Power

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