This project aims to restore the high penetration wind-diesel system and to simultaneously develop a real-world wind-diesel microgrid test bed for research in Kokhanok, Alaska.
Kokhanok is a remote community of approximately 157 people located within the Lake and Peninsula Borough (LPB) on the shore of Illiamna Lake. A wind-diesel system was installed in 2012 and operated at 37% penetration for the first year. However, the system experienced operational challenges in subsequent years, resulting in suspension of wind-diesel operation. Despite the challenges, the community of Kokhanok and the LPB remained supportive of the renewable project and continued to seek opportunities to restore the system to full operation.
In 2018, ACEP teamed with the LPB, Kokhanok Village Council, Kokhanok Electric Utility, Intelligent Energy Systems (IES), Utility Management Assistance (UMA), and Deerstone Consulting to restore and upgrade the wind-diesel system. The effort was also made to simultaneously develop a real-world wind-diesel microgrid test bed for research and advancing of methods to maximize the contribution of renewable energy sources on weak and islanded microgrids.
This project has been supported under multiple funding sources. Base funding, including funding for repair and upgrade of the base wind-diesel system (wind turbines, dispatchable electric boiler, microgrid controller and communication infrastructure) was provided by the DoD Office of Naval Research under the ARCTIC grant.
Additional funding was provided by the USDA under a High Energy Cost Grant to procure a battery energy storage system and electric thermal stoves to enable high penetration operation. Funding was also provided by the State of Alaska under a Renewable Energy Fund grant previously awarded to Kokhanok Village Council. This funding has been used to make repairs to the diesel powerhouse.
In addition to deployment and research, this effort has a strong educational and workforce development component, focusing on training for local utility managers, wind-turbine tower climbing and technician training, and middle- and high-school curriculum development.
The project began in July 2019. Project installation was delayed due to COVID, but in March of 2021, IES successfully recommissioned the base system in Kokhanok, with the wind turbines spinning again after seven dormant years. The battery energy storage system was delivered and installed in Kokhanok in late 2021, and commissioned in February 2022, successfully transitioning the system to high penetration operation capable of operating diesel-off. Four electric thermal stoves were installed in November 2022 in the fire hall and other village-owned public buildings. The stoves will be charged when there is excess wind power. As part of this project, the old non-operational battery bank will be shipped out of Kokhanok in spring 2023.
On the workforce development side, the originally scheduled week-long utility management course, planned to take place in Iliamna, Alaska in March of 2020 was canceled due to COVID. In lieu of this in-person group training, UMA has been providing remote one-on-one training to community utilities, working with actual information and specific needs of the community. UMA has provided timely utility policy guidance regarding renewable generation by customers and independent power producers, as related safety specifications, net metering policies and power purchase agreements are new to most independent rural utilities in Alaska.
In November 2020, ACEP provided on-site wind-turbine technician tower safety and rescue training to three Kokhanok community members. This training enabled the members to assist IES during system commissioning. They will also be able to provide local support to keep the turbines spinning.