The Sweetheart Lake Hydroelectric facility now has a series of green lights in front of it that nearly clears the path for a 2018 construction start on a 19.8-megawatt facility designed to generate an average of 116,000 megawatt-hours annually.
Proposed by Juneau Hydropower Inc., the 111-ft-tall concrete dam facility located 33 miles south of downtown Juneau on the east shore of Gilbert Bay represents a 25 percent increase over Juneau’s current electrical generation.
“The construction of the Sweetheart Lake facility is key to Juneau’s energy future, and will bring immediate economic and environmental benefits to all the citizens of Juneau,” says Keith Comstock, CEO. “In addition to reducing Juneau’s electrical deficit, Sweetheart Lake will provide a renewable electricity source for transportation, District Heating and meeting the sustainable needs of our growing economy.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued Juneau Hydropower its FERC license and Environmental Impact Statement on Sept. 8, 2016. The Nov. 30, 2017, issuance of a Special Use Permit by the United States Forest Services allows the Sweetheart Lake Plant to construct on Sweetheart Creek in the Tongass National Forest on land administered by the USFS. The dam’s site locates above a series of waterfalls that naturally block salmon passage into the lake.
Since receiving the FERC license in 2016, Juneau Hydropower completed a drilling program to verify a solid foundation for the site. It has made preparations to begin full-scale construction in 2018. An interconnection agreement with Alaska Electric Light and Power, which allows JHI to connect their power to the existing State of Alaska-owned, Avista/AEL&P controlled, Snettisham transmission line to deliver the energy to the city, stands as the only remaining license needed prior to full-scale development.
JHI expects construction to start in summer 2018, but the company still needs to finalize financing, which comes after receiving the interconnection agreement.
According to filings with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, as reported by the Juneau Empire, the dam plans to send a majority of its electricity toward the Kensington gold mine on yet-unbuilt high-voltage power lines and the Juneau District Heating project in Juneau’s downtown core.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.