top of page

Kodiak Brown Bear Center

February 12, 2019

We first got involved with the Kodiak Brown Bear center when they were looking at upgrading their power system. The KBBC is located 90 air miles southwest of Kodiak city on Camp Island on Karluk Lake. The KBBC is approximately an hour float plane ride from the city of Kodiak and is only accessible float plane or helicopter. The logistics of getting the numerous components, equipment and supplies to the KBBC safely and on time was a daunting challenge requiring well thought out logistics and contingencies to maximize efficiencies and control costs.
This is where KBBC’s GM, Ed Ward’s priceless knowledge, experience and broad base of competencies were invaluable. Having been raised in Kodiak and spending nearly 15 years commercial fishing the waters of Bering Sea and around Kodiak Island, Ed new the critical importance having reliable and durable equipment and machinery because his life and the lives of his crew depended on it.

I’ll never forget Ed telling me when I first met him about his background in the Alaska fisheries.

“When you’re on the waters of the Bering Sea and around Kodiak Island and something goes wrong you don’t stop and put the 4-way flashers on and hope someone will come along to help you. Either you find a way to fix it and fix it fast or you may die. It’s as simple as that. You need to be quick on your feet and have an in depth and working knowledge of all the electrical, mechanical, propulsion, hydraulic and navigational systems. On top of that, throw in a vessel that is pitching and rolling in 20’ seas or higher and depending on the time year, probably icing up.”

The KBBC is located in the heart of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge which is home to the largest omnivore on earth. The legendary Kodiak Brown Bear. 8 of the 10 largest bears ever recorded came from this area. Also, it is one of the most pristine wildlife habitats on earth that supports numerous species of wildlife, birds & flora. Ed’s main concern was to have wind turbines that would have as minimal impact as possible on the birds and wildlife. He ruled out HAWT’s due to their higher speeds, increased likelihood of bird strikes and kills, turbine noise/ harmonic resonance, having to constantly change orientation due to shifting winds and visual pollution.

Ed chose the VAWT’s because they were much more bird friendly (not one single bird kill since 2017 install), minimal noise and harmonic resonance compared to HAWT’s, less wear and tear on parts due to the centrifugal force design not having to orient in to the wind, lower startup wind speed, survival wind speed up to 121 mph (55m/s) and in his opinion were less visually polluting. Ed also specified he had to have a monopole tower. A lattice tower with guy wires would not work as it would take up to big of foot print, even with an electric fence the bears could climb and tear up a lattice tower, and birds were known to make nests in the lattice. All these environmental concerns were adequately addressed using VAWT’s.

During our initial discussions with Ed he informed me the KBBC was planning on building a large “Great Room” (Dining/Meeting Hall) with additional buildings in the future for housing. The issue KBBC was facing was that their existing system had become woefully inadequate even before these upgrades were being contemplated. The KBBC had two Schneider 6kw inverters and a Surrette Rolls lead acid battery system all on a 48 vdc nominal system. During meal times the load was so extensive that the system was operating at or beyond its maximum capabilities which would have inevitably led to a potential system wide crash due to the rapid voltage drop of the lead acid batteries.

Even with the generator running and the inverters being on assist, this system was showing telltale signs it was going to suffer a system wide crash sometime in the not too distant future. This is a common problem with 48 vdc nominal systems of 20 kW or higher. We limit 48 vdc nominal lead acid and Li systems to 20 kw. Anything above that, we go to 240 vdc or 512 vdc nominal. The rational is simple. Current, conductors, switch gear and the issue of lead acid batteries rapid voltage drop. 20 kW @ 48 vdc nominal is over 416 amps. 20 kW at 240 vdc is 83.3 amps. At 512 vdc it is only 39 amps.

When Ed first came to visit us he saw firsthand the difference between Li systems vs. lead acid and immediately recognized that the lead acid batteries could not perform to the specifications and requirements he was asking. Our rule of thumb with lead acid systems is once a system uses more than 20% of stored power the system will experience voltage drops that will affect inverter performance.

When we showed Ed that our Li systems can be loaded down with a 50% load and it dropped by only .02 vdc he was amazed and said “that’s the ticket! That’s what I need.” Plus these systems are over 98% efficient. Charge/Discharge tests we have done with our 252 AH cells showed us the we could remove 250 AH and replenish it with 251 AH and the system was full. Plus our Li chargers are also very efficient and clean. The power they produce is power supply quality and the efficiency is again, over 98%.

Ed was initially planning to stay with the 48 vdc system by adding another inverter and replace the 1000 AH lead acid battery bank with a newer and bigger bank. However, the more we discussed KBBC’s situation along with its projected future growth potential, the more it became abundantly clear that even if KBBC’s 48 vdc system were upgraded, it would not provide the power to reliably and safely meet their current and future power demands.

This was the basis for KBBC’s decision to go with LiFePO4, 240 vdc energy storage system and a 40 kW, Ametek inverter. We are the only company in the world that utilizes Ametek inverters for primary power systems. Ametek inverters are industrial grade, beyond heavy duty. They are primarily used as nuclear power plant and refinery backup control systems around the world. Almost every nuclear power plant in the world utilizes these inverters. They are designed for a 30-year life, with routine maintenance and periodic swap out of critical components.

KBBC had an existing PV system, that we were able to rewire to accommodate the 240 vdc nominal Li system. We control the PV charging with the Li system BMS. We also installed two 10kW VAWT for additional power production. Plus multiple AC chargers for the Lipo4 battery system. They have two 14kW diesel generators that supply power for the AC chargers based on Li system voltage. The 30-kW inverter has static power loses of approx. 1 kW. This might sound like a lot, but actually for a system like this it is marginal.

Efficiency is very important, but it takes a back seat to reliability. It is imperative that systems like this function/work or what’s the point? Especially as logistically isolated as this system is. Ed demanded that all components had 3 characteristics, reliability, durability & serviceability as it will be operating in an environment that it’s not uncommon to see 90 mph+ winds, snow and rain. Additionally, given KBBC remote location made these requirements all the more imperative. Each system component we designed with Ed met his requirements and the system has been operating flawlessly since June 2017.

Advance Power designed KBBC’s system to not only meet their current demands, but their future needs as well. KBBC’s future includes adding more solar panels and removing the two small generators for one larger generator to meet all the power demand in the remote possibility a catastrophic failure should occur with the renewable energy system. The single larger generator (50kw) will enable the KBBC carry the entire load and allow them to run multiple Li chargers at the same time while minimizing generator run time and fuel consumption to keep up with demand when there is inadequate solar and/or wind available to keep the batteries charged. With diesel fuel nearing $10 gallon by the time it’s delivered to the KBBC, minimizing generator run time is crucial.

Advance Power concurs with KBBC’s risk management perspective to have redundancies and backups built into the system to sustain operations. The upfront cost for these redundancies far outweighs the cost progressive damage would have on KBBC’s state-of-the-art utilities, infrastructure and buildings should it ever lose all renewable power, regardless of the time of year.

Advance Power assembled most of the components in advance at our warehouse in Redwood Valley, CA. Once completed we disassembled them and put them into a 20’ watertight Conex shipping container along with other equipment needed for the install for its 3,000 mile (4,828 km) trip north to Kodiak, Alaska. The two 10kW VAWT’s were shipped from Asia which was a Herculean logistical challenge in itself. Clearing customs, freight, insurance etc.

Once all the components and equipment arrived in Kodiak they were loaded onto a 100’ landing craft for its 12/hr journey from the city of Kodiak to Uyak Bay on the southwest side of Kodiak Island. All components and equipment were air lifted 6 miles (9.6 km) through a mountain pass to the KBBC on Karluk Lake using a Bell 214B helicopter that had a 7,000lb (3,175kg) lifting load capacity. This was the largest commercial helicopter available in Alaska at the time. With the tower sections and the 10kW VAWT generator ends weighing over 4,000lbs (1,880kg) each, the KBBC needed a piece of equipment that would provide large measure of safety lifting these heavy loads.

KBBC’s remote location presented some very unique installation challenges by preventing the KBBC from having ready access to a boom truck or crane to do the install and more importantly, delivering and keeping one of these pieces of equipment on site to perform maintenance. So we designed a split monopole tower that could be assembled with a 5-ton gantry & 5-ton hand chain hoist so the main tower section could be raised and lowered with a 20-ton, counterbalanced hydraulic ram.

Some of you may be wondering about the cost to fly 14 cubic yards of concrete for each tower base or 28 cubic yards of concrete total by helicopter to the KBBC. It was purely driven by cost. The concrete for the tower bases would have cost more than the all the components combined delivered to the KBBC.

Ed knowing the geology of the land came up with the next best thing, he would anchor the towers to the bedrock with long steel rods that were grouted in place. Ed knew flat bedrock was 1’- 2’ (30.5cm – 60.96cm) below the overburden. So he removed the overburden and exposed the flat bedrock. Advance Power had the VAWT manufacturer in China send an exact steel template of the tower & ram base so it could be used as a template to drill holes in the bedrock. The template designed was transferred to two laminated sheets of 1” plywood. The reason for this is the steel template holes were the exact same size as the M36 rods with no room left to secure the rods in place with 15,000psi grout. The holes on the plywood were 3” (76.2mm) in diameter spaced 3” (76.2mm) apart.

A rock drill was disassembled and helicoptered to the KBBC along with a drilling crew who proceeded to drill 38 holes, 8’ (244cm) deep for each threaded M36 base rod. This was precision drilling at is finest! It took 5 days. All the rods were secured in place at once with 15,000psi grout with the matching base steel template set over the rods for perfect alignment with the tower bases. This towering anchoring method cost 70% less than a concrete foundation.

It took Ed, me and two others with very limited equipment about 10 days to do the install. The system went operational June 2017. Since that time has operated flawlessly with no breakdowns and withstanding 90 mph (145km/hr.) winds, snow, rain and ice.

Though Ed Ward is no longer with the KBBC, feel free to reach out and contact him at any time if you have any questions or he can be of service. He has an enormous wealth of knowledge, capabilities and competencies that are sure to help with any renewable system purchase or upgrade you may be planning or looking to do in the future. Here’s his contact info:

email: , cell – 907.717.6993

bottom of page