A solar project in rural Alaska takes aim at sky-high electric bills
A new renewable energy project in the Northwest Alaska village of Buckland
aims to demonstrate solar and wind power’s potential to reduce the region’s sky-high utility costs.
The village-run electric utility is set to switch on three new solar arrays this week, and a new battery system next year.
Boosters say systems like Buckland’s have huge potential to reduce the cost of power in rural Alaska, where electricity prices can be six times the national average and monthly light bills can top $1,000. But major obstacles remain, too, from the technology’s cost to the region’s remoteness.
Buckland, which now makes most of its power with generators fueled by barged-in diesel, is a sort of test case. Once the system is fully functional and linked with preexisting wind turbines, the village expects to be able to shut off its diesel generators for hours at a time during the summer, according to the project’s designers.
“Everybody’s for it – everybody wants to get away from the fuel,” said Erik Weber, who runs the village water plant and has helped with the solar installation. “When things like an energy crisis come up and there’s not a lot of fuel to go around, we can keep going here.” More
Action team delivers recommendations to address climate change
FAIRBANKS — Gov. Bill Walker’s Climate Action Leadership Team delivered a set of recommendations to the Walker administration Wednesday in an attempt to mitigate the visible effects of climate change in Alaska.
In October 2017, Walker signed Administrative Order 289, acknowledging the effects of climate change in Alaska and creating the Alaska Climate Change Strategy and Alaska Climate Action Leadership Team to “advise the governor on critical and timely actions to address climate change challenges that will safeguard now and for future generations.”
“As the northernmost state, Alaska is America’s Arctic, and our state’s communities face accelerating erosion, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, rapidly thawing permafrost and changing intensity in wildland fires,” the order reads.
Actions to confront climate change announced by state
Walker says state will work toward increased energy affordability
State officials say they plan some immediate steps to confront climate change, from lowering emissions and energy costs to addressing villages at risk from erosion, flooding and permafrost degradation and assessing climate effects on Alaska’s fisheries.
The announcement on Sept. 26 from the Walker administration came after the Climate Action Leadership Team appointed by Gov. Bill Walker delivered its recommendations on mitigating and adapting to climate change,
“Alaska is ground zero for climate change,” said Walker. “White that poses serious challenges, it also makes us uniquely positioned to understand climate issues, develop innovative responses, and share them with others.”
It is a critical responsibility of the state government to work toward increased energy affordability and healthy, resilient communities that can prosper as the environment changes, he said.
The team presented Walker with two documents summarizing recommended policy changes and action plans. The first is a broad outline of six policy areas aimed at strengthening climate change resilience, to include communities and partnerships, human and ecosystem health, economic opportunity, clean energy, outreach and education, and investment.
The second includes several dozen potential actions for the state to review, research and take action on as resources allow.
Climate change is hardly a new issue facing Alaska, which has a long history of trying to understand the challenges and opportunities these issues present to the state. On Oct. 31, 2017, Walker, who is seeking a second term as governor, signed Administrative Order 289, establishing the Alaska Climate Change Strategy and the Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team. The order called for state agencies to review their precious work on climate change and identify immediate actions to be taken. More
State, Local Officials Celebrate Success of Waterfall Creek, King Cove's Second Hydroelectric Facility, during Dedication Ceremony
September 24, 2018
Several state and local officials traveled to King Cove to participate in the city’s dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony of Waterfall Creek, the community’s second hydroelectric facility. Since Waterfall Creek began operating in May 2017, it has produced more than 1.3 MW (megawatts) of energy and has performed remarkably well.
“We are very proud that since 1994, King Cove has been the most remote, productive micro-grid renewable energy community in Alaska,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack.
State and local officials who flew to King Cove for the city’s dedication ceremony included: Alaska Senator Lyman Hoffman; Rep. Bryce Edgmon; Barbara Blake, Senior Advisor to Governor Walker; and Aleutians East Borough Mayor Alvin Osterback. The group visited the city’s waterfront, school, new diesel plant, and the new Waterfall Creek hydro facility in addition to the Delta Creek hydro facility.
“What it means to King Cove is they’re moving toward electric energy independence, which is a goal I wish all Alaskans could have,” said Alaska Senator Lyman Hoffman.
“This project is a role model for other communities because every community aspires, to some extent, to have renewable energy,” said Rep. Bryce Edgmon. “I see places like King Cove, Kodiak and Cordova leading the way.” More
New energy projects seek to lower electricity costs in Southeast Alaska
By Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan
New projects are under development throughout the region to help reduce energy costs for Southeast Alaska residents. A panel presented some of those during last week’s Southeast Conference annual fall meeting in Ketchikan.
Jodi Mitchell is with Inside Passage Electric Cooperative, which is working on the Gunnuk Creek hydroelectric project for Kake. IPEC is a non-profit, she said, with the goal of reducing electric rates for its members.
The Gunnuk Creek project will be built at an existing dam.
“The benefits for the project will be, of course, renewable energy for Kake. And we estimate it will save about 6.2 million gallons over its 50-year life,” she said. “Although, as you heard earlier, these hydro projects last forever.”
The gallons saved are of diesel fuel, which currently is used to power generators for electricity.
IPEC operates other hydro projects in Klukwan and Hoonah. Mitchell said they’re looking into future projects, one near Angoon and another that would add capacity to the existing Hoonah project.
Mitchell said they fund much of their work through grants, which helps keep electric rates at a reasonable level. More
Does it pay to install solar panels in Alaska?
For many home or cabin owners, solar has become a cost-effective consideration the last couple years — even in Alaska. The cost savings of installing solar as your primary energy source varies widely on conditions and locations throughout the state.
The question of whether solar is worth the investment, or yields a quick payback time, is dependent largely on how much you now pay for a kilowatt of electricity and the cost of buying the panels. The price of the racks to mount the panels, tracking equipment if you desire to use it and batteries should also be considered in the cost.
Batteries are needed if you want to use the energy you produce. Typically, they are deep cycle and can vary in voltage; most often, several are purchased and strung together. They can be expensive, and they take a fair amount of maintenance. If you are willing to sell the energy to a local utility even though you buy your home energy from that utility, you are wisely using the electrical grid as your “battery” or storage.
In Alaska, the amount the utility pays for your solar-generated energy is going to be only a portion of what you pay for electricity per kilowatt. And that is if your local utility will buy your electricity. That may depend on the utility’s overall load it supplies for other customers.
The amount of solar power you can harness increases with snow-free, clear skies and cold weather. Solar gain decreases for about a month and a half or so before and after Christmas. Depending on the site location, terrain, standing trees, etc., it is possible to receive some solar gain for those three months, yet it will most likely be negligible due to the low arc of the sun. More
EPA to award 1.6 million grant to Northwest, Tribal Entities including TCC
By Julie Swisher Posted: Mon 9:59 PM, Sep 17, 2018
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Three Northwest and Tribal Entities will be awarded a significant grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A total of 1.6 million dollars has been distributed between two tribes in Washington, and the Tanana Chiefs Conference here locally, as part of a federal initiative to reduce emissions.
The 'Diesel Emissions Reductions Act', or 'DERA' grant awarded to TCC is just under 500 thousand dollars, and will be directed toward replacing older diesel engines and generators. Both Beaver Village and Stevens Village, located in the Yukon Koyukuk census area, will receive the funds.
Project Manager for TCC, Dave Messier, told us how this opened-ended grant was paired with a specific work plan, based on needs in these communities.
He said, "Two of our communities Beaver and Stevens Village have expressed a need to decrease diesel emissions and upgrade their generators so this funding came available and we were able to pair it with some money from the VW Settlement. And so the money that we are receiving from the EPA, will be added to about a hundred thousand dollars we are receiving from the Denali Commission through the Alaska Energy Authority. And that will be used to replace three stationary diesel generators in the community of Beaver and Four Stationary diesel generators in the community of Stevens village." More
Home Energy Leaders Program: ‘HELP’-ing Southeast Alaskans save money and energy
Wednesday, September 5, 2018 2:01pm
Tackling energy loss can be difficult, in part, because it’s hard to see.
Energy creeps out through creaky door frames and window cracks in the form of heat loss. It is sucked out and drained by plugged-in but “off” appliances as phantom or “vampire energy.” Non-LED bulbs blaze through electrical energy at a cheetah pace. One element of energy loss though is easy to see: high utility bills.
The Home Energy Leaders Program (HELP), which is wrapping up its pilot season this week, aims to make simple energy saving solutions available to four rural Southeast communities.
HELP is hosted by the Renewable Energy Alaska Program and Southeast Conference, and supported by the Alaska Conservation Foundation, Hoonah Indian Association, the Inside Passage Electric Cooperative in Kake, and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Seven residents from Kake, Angoon, Hoonah and Yakutat were flown to Juneau in January to take a crash course training in energy efficiency and residential energy auditing. Four more, who were weathered out of the Juneau event, were trained later online. Once trained and paperwork was signed, energy leaders took to their home communities in March with surveys and resources like LED lights and weather stripping to audit interested neighbor’s homes.
Niccole Williams, of Hoonah, is one of those trained leaders and since early spring she’s audited more than 20 of her neighbors’ residences.
“I’ve gotten feedback from people who have taken my advice and changed to LED bulbs, used power strips and have done all the work that I’ve stressed during the audit and they actually did see a difference in their energy bill,” Williams said. “When they see me in town, people have literally stopped me and made a point to say, ‘Thank you so much for helping me save money!’ It’s a really great feeling.” More