The U.S. Department of Energy on May 6 issued a finding of no significant impact related to an environmental assessment on a combined heat and power plant to be be built in Alaska.
DOE review is needed because the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG) has been selected to receive federal funding through the DOE to implement a community combined heat and power (CHP) plant to be constructed by the Gwitchyaa Zhee Utility Co. (GZU). GZU, which is owned and operated by the Gwitchyaa Zhee Corp. (GZC), also has been selected to receive financial assistance for the proposed project via grants from the Denali Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS) High Energy Cost Grant Program.
As part of the decisionmaking process, DOE, in cooperation with RUS and the Denali Commission, is conducting an analysis to determine the potential environmental impacts of providing funding to purchase equipment and develop a CHP Plant and district energy system, harvest biomass for use at that plant, and conduct other activities associated with the development and operation of the CHP plant. DOE is the lead federal agency for this review.
The project involves the construction of a new CHP plant containing a diesel-fueled electrical generation plant with a heat recovery system and a high efficiency boiler fired by wood chips, a wood chip storage area, a shop to protect and work on equipment, biomass harvesting equipment, and a district heating loop to distribute heat to local buildings. The proposed CHP plant would replace the existing diesel-fueled power plant in Fort Yukon, and offset 80% to 100% of the diesel fuel oil currently used to heat buildings to be served by the heat distribution system.
To provide fuel for the new boiler, 1,600 to 2,000 green tons of woody biomass would be harvested each year from surrounding private lands owned by GZC. Operation of the proposed Combined Power and Biomass Heating System would help stabilize volatile fuel prices and provide economic development in Fort Yukon through the development of a local wood products industry, the EA noted.
Fort Yukon is an incorporated community located at the confluence of the Yukon River and the Porcupine River, about 145 air miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska. The community is eight miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The heat utility system would use a combination of two heat sources; recovered heat from the diesel generators and heat generated by the biomass-fired boiler. A heat recovery system, including heat exchangers and distribution systems would be installed with the generators, and would provide approximately 25% to 35% of the heat for the system. The boiler would be fueled with wood chips, would have a rated capacity of 3.2-million BTUs, and would augment the diesel generation recovered heat system and provide heat to meet the district heating system load. The boiler would be equipped with chip storage bins and an automatic chip feed system. Chips would be fed from the chip bin to the boiler via a combination of hydraulically operated augers and conveyors.
The main generation room would contain four electronically controlled fuel‐efficient diesel generators with a total installed capacity of between 1,900 and 2,500 kW, which will meet current and anticipated future demands for electricity in Fort Yukon. Two of the existing electronically controlled generators in the GZU power plant would be relocated to the CHP plant, and two new electronically controlled fuel‐efficient generators would be purchased to replace existing antiquated and inefficient equipment. The generators would be sized so that any two would have the combined capacity to meet normal peak community loads.