Beluga Power Station, Beluga, Alaska
The Beluga Power Plant, which is owned by the Chugach Electric Association, is located in Beluga, Alaska, near the Cook Inlet. This isolated community is accessible only by ship or plane. Despite this, it supplies electricity for about half of the city of Anchorage. It is primarily fueled by natural gas, although one of its eight turbines is steam-powered.
In fact, the plant is located on top of a large gas reserve. This allows for gas to be extracted and promptly processed on-site, rather than shipped in from another location.
Compared to other energy sources, such as coal, natural gas is relatively clean. It produces fewer toxins such as mercury and greenhouse gases when it is burned. However, this does not mean that natural gas is completely without environmental impact. Gas-fueled power plants do release some greenhouse gases and can pose other threats to the environment.
Life in Beluga
The power plant is the primary source of income for residents of the very small town (officially considered a “census-designated place”) of Beluga. As of the 2000 census, the population totaled only 32 people. Many of these residents live here only seasonally; on any given day, a majority of the homes in this area are likely to be unoccupied.
As the name of the town suggests, Beluga whales can be found in nearby Cook Inlet. The area is also known for its large amount of salmon. Currently, the town of Beluga has become part of a larger debate concerning a proposed coal mine in the area. Many Alaskans are worried that the byproducts of this mine could harm the whales, fish, and residents of the area.