King Cove’s new hydroelectric plant comes online

RCA advised city it’s no longer eligible for power cost equalization subsidy.

King Cove’s new Waterfall Creek hydroelectric facility is now online, producing up to 400 kilowatts of electricity, city officials said.

Waterfall Creek is the Aleutian city’s second run-of-the-river hydro facility. The community of 925 people lies 625 air miles southwest of Anchorage at the western end of the Alaska Peninsula.

The first, Delta Creek, came online in 1994, and is about twice the size of Waterfall Creek. Together, these two renewable energy sources are expected to produce about 75 percent of the city’s annual power demand of 4.5 megawatts, said city administrator Gary Hennigh.

With two hydroelectric facilities in operation, King Cove is claiming the title of being the most prolific, single site, renewable energy community in rural Alaska.

“The community is very excited about Waterfall Creek being completed and does not expect to hear the sound of our diesel support system until winter,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack.

The final project cost is expected to be about $6.7 million. Funds for the project include $3.3 million in grants from the Alaska Energy Authority and Aleutians East Borough, $3 million in long-term debt from the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank, and AEA’s Power Project Fund, and $400,000 in contributions from the city.


It took  years, from initial concept, design, permitting, and funding to complete construction.

“The city’s perseverance in completing the project has largely been driven by 22 years of success with Delta Creek,” Mack said. “This hydro has displaced over 3 million gallons during this time with more than 50 percent of the community’s total power production coming from this renewable energy source.”

Energy costs in King Cover run at 30 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to average costs in rural Alaska of 45 cents per kilowatt hour. The average cost of electricity in the Lower 48, by comparison, is 12 cents per kilowatt hour.  With Waterfall Creek online, city officials said they are confident that they can maintain or possibly even lower their rate per kilowatt hour.

The irony of the situation, said Hennigh, is that while Waterfall Creek has come online, King Cove has been simultaneously informed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska that the community is no longer eligible for a power cost equalization subsidy. About 185 communities in rural Alaska get the PCE subsidy, including more than 35 communities that have some of their own renewable power generation.

A formal dedication of the Waterfall Creek hydro facility is planned for late summer.

Neither of King Cove’s hydroelectric facilities at this time provide any benefits to the Peter Pan Seafoods plant, which is the city’s major employer. ”We hope that changes, but that likelihood is still at least a year away,” Hennigh said.

The reason is that city officials don’t know how much “surplus” power (hydro power that is generated because of available water) the city has to offer the processor at this point, and how that meshes with Peter Pan Seafoods’ needs, he said.

According to Hennigh, the processor would be very interested in buying whatever surplus power they can get, presumable at a cost less than they can produce in their diesel plant.

Meanwhile, Hennigh said, instead of whining about the unfairness and inequity in the PCE program, King Cove is going to push hard for a final capital appropriation during the next legislative session to lower its debt on Waterfall Creek.

Four or five years ago, King Cove was receiving between seven and eight cents in PCE, then about two years ago it went down to about two cents, then a half penny and now zero. Pelican and the North Slope Borough communities are the only other communities receiving no PCE at this time, Hennigh said.

Meanwhile Cordova, with two hydroelectric facilities, Unalaska, Kotzebue, with its wind generation, Dillingham and Nome all get between five and 10 cents PCE, Hennigh said.

King Cove, one of the largest Aleut communities in Alaska, has two harbors supporting a year round fisheries economy.  One of the state’s largest fish processors, Peter Pan Seafoods, marked its 100th anniversary in King Cove several years ago with a community wide celebration.

King Cove was settled in 1911,  incorporated as a city in 1949, and became a first class city in 1974.