"Our reservoir operations model is showing a near 100 percent chance of spilling water this fall," said Scott Willis, vice president of generation for AEL&P. "The lake levels are higher than they were at this time last year. We would rather sell surplus power today and rebate the money to AEL&P customers than spill the water when it is not needed this fall."
AEL&P began selling surplus hydropower in 2001 to Princess Cruise Lines ships docking at Juneau's downtown waterfront. All of the revenue from surplus power sales to Princess ships is rebated back to AEL&P customers, Willis said.
An additional benefit to the community is improved air quality downtown while the cruise ships are able to use clean shore power, Willis said.
AEL&P has two other classes of surplus energy customers. AEL&P began reconnecting customers on its dual-fuel program two weeks ago. The program is for customers who can switch back and forth between electricity and diesel fuel for their heating systems.
The other surplus energy customer, the Greens Creek mine on Admiralty Island, is still not connected. The mine has participated in the program since 2006 but the utility sends electricity to Greens Creek only when it has sufficient water at Snettisham to meet Juneau's hydroelectric needs before selling surplus power to the mine.
"We want to see how the lakes do with the cruise ships connected to the line," Willis said. "We'll watch the lakes for another week or two, and if they continue to rise we will consider surplus energy sales to Greens Creek."
Willis said Juneau customers also benefit from the sale of surplus electricity to Greens Creek through customer rebates.
The 115-year-old Juneau utility shut down surplus power sales to Greens Creek mine last September, due to low water levels at Lake Snettisham.