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Alaska Champions Geothermal Power, Plans Leasing Rights Public Offering


Augustine_VolcanoIn Alaska’s Lower Cook Inlet, home of the active Augustine Volcano, the Division of Oil and Gas plans to offer the public the chance to bid for leasing rights on the entirety of Augustine Island, its tidelands, and surrounding waters. This amounts to close to 66,000 acres of state-owned land.

On May 8, the lease sale will begin with an offering of new oil and gas drilling rights around Cook Inlet. This inlet is historically significant since it is where Alaska’s oil boom first began, but the Alaska Peninsula has not been explored in depth.

In 2010, Alaska set a goal for 50% of its energy deriving from renewable energy sources by 2025. This includes hydropower, solar, plant-based biomass, and wind.

Geothermal power is reliable, constant, and is environmentally friendly, but some environmentalists are reluctant about developing remote Augustine, which is about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage. They are concerned developing the area will have severe environmental and ecological impacts.

Alaska does have plentiful geothermal resources, in fact more than any other state, a majority of it is located in sparsely populated remote areas, making development difficult and expensive and putting it too far away from infrastructure and population centers to easily be put to practical use.

To date, Alaska’s only privately-funded geothermal plant that produces electricity is at Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks. The state’s most promising spot for a big geothermal project likely is Mount Spurr, which is close to a densely populated area.

St. Augustine last erupted in 2006 and has had six major eruptions in the last 200 years, as well as a number of earthquakes. The state has considered this degree of volcanic activity could pose a risk to workers and facilities.

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