Akutan Seeks Geothermal Energy

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

For years, the Aleutian village of Akutan has seen the energy potential in its hot springs and fumaroles. Now, it looks like that potential might be realized.

In July, work began on two exploratory wells. The first one was drilled on July 16, and it’s producing hot water at more than 360 degrees. The exploration team is drilling a second well, and they’re optimistic that the water will be similarly warm.

If it is, the exploration phase will end and the city of Akutan will start working on a power plant that would harness the steam from the ground and use it to power electrical turbines. Ray Mann is Akutan’s project manager, and he’s been working closely on the exploration project. He explains that Akutan – with its hot water at shallow depths – is particularly well suited for a renewable energy project like this.

Right now, Akutan uses diesel as its main energy source.  Mann says because the cost of energy is already high and expected to get higher in the future, a geothermal plant could help save Akutan’s residents a good deal of money.

There are plenty of other places in Alaska that have geothermal potential. In Unalaska, the presence of the Makushin Volcano means that a similar project would be possible. But no place is as far along with its exploration work as Akutan.

The exploration team hopes to have a power plant online by 2012.

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