SEGA gearing up, but still no contract with Gana-A’Yoo

Sustainable Energy for Galena Alaska is moving ahead with plans to produce wood chips for use in a municipal wood heat system for the Galena base.  But a timber harvest contract with the dominant landowner around Galena – Gana-A’Yoo Limited – has yet to be finalized.

Gana-A‘Yoo delivered a draft timber sale agreement over the winter, but as SEGA General Manager Tim Kalke explains, the two parties have not come to complete agreement yet, owing mainly to the fact that the Galena biomass energy project will be different in many respects from the others already in operation elsewhere in Alaska.

Kalke:  “The SEGA Board of Directors were able to look that over, and we put together a pretty extensive list of items we would like to have molded and massaged into an agreement that works for our conditions.  This is really an exciting venture because harvesting trees for biomass specifically is a rarity and having it happen here in the interior of Alaska on native land is also a new thing.  So it’s not as if there are contracts that one could pull out and say ‘here is how they do it.’”   

Gana-A’Yoo and SEGA have come to terms on how the harvested wood will be measured and sold, and Kalke says it will be different than what most other biomass heat systems in Alaska are doing.

Kalke: “Typically on the road system it is pretty easy, because you have a certified scale that weighs it all and then it’s kind of a no-brainer.  It’s a just a matter of recording that information.  But out here, to be able to do that, and have the weight scale continuously updated and checked out by everybody, it is much more time-consuming and expensive. So we’ve been able to work out an agreement where we will do forestry inventory and be able to measure everything by volume.”    

SEGA’s harvest plan targets areas of cottonwood-dominated forest immediately to the west of the Galena base.  To satisfy the heat demands of the base, SEGA anticipates having to deliver between 16 and 18 hundred tons of chips per year.  That works out to between 800 and 900 cords of wood.

Kalke says there are still several issues to work out regarding what happens after SEGA sells the finished wood chips to the City of Galena utility.

Kalke: “So SEGA is involved with harvesting the timber from the forest, transporting it close to the utility as possible and processing it into a chip.  But then there’s that whole other end of what kind of storage container needs to be created or might already be here but we need to make it into something that will work for us?  How’s it going to be delivered to the hopper, which is the main container that will feed the wood boiler?  But we don’t know what that configuration is going to be yet.”   

More clarification on those design issues will come, according to Kalke, after SEGA and the contractors learn more about how much wood SEGA can deliver in a certain time period, and how long that wood needs to be stored before it can be burned.

Along with switching to wood as a heat source, contractors are also working on plans to transition the base heat system from steam to hot water.  Engineering consultants predict that a hot water-based delivery system will cost less to maintain than the existing steam system.

SEGA performed a brief test of its harvesting equipment in April, and a larger test harvest is planned for this October and November.  The new wood boiler could come online as early as October 2016.

The complete audio of the story, as heard on the May 22 KIYU newscasts, is here.

By Tim Bodony

Published at KIYU radio, Galena on May 22, 2015

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