Alaska's alternative energy revolution will take a new twist this summer when 15 turbines spin to life over a trio of Southwest Alaska villages, in one of the most notable wind projects ever to reach the Bush.
Like so much heavy equipment in Southwest Alaska, the turbines are old-school hand-me-downs imported from the Lower 48 -- in this case, the California desert. They seem small and stodgy by today's standards, resembling Kansas farm ornaments with four-legged bases and lattice-work sides. But at 12-stories tall, they'll tower over tiny Kwigillingok, Kongiganak and Tuntutuliak, home to about 1,200 residents total.
They're a perfect fit for the small communities, experts said. And refurbished though they are, the turbines are part of a decidedly high-tech project that includes online meters residents can use to monitor electric use from home computers and electric heaters that automatically fire up when extra wind blows.
People are ready for relief from high costs in the Yup'ik villages near the Kuskokwim River mouth, where the diesel fuel that provides power and heat is barged up the coast at great expense, said William Igkurak, longtime manager of the local power company.