News & Publications

Alaska village will install new river power generator

By RACHEL D'ORO July 17, 2019

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A tiny Native village in southwest Alaska has turned to an emerging technology to transform the power of a local river into a sustainable energy source that’s expected to free residents from dependency on costly diesel fuel.

The village council in Igiugig is the first tribal entity in the nation licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to harness river water that’s not connected to a dam. That means the community of 70 is authorized to proceed with the complex project and that the system went through rigorous reviews by state and federal agencies, according to a U.S. Department of Energy official working with the village.

“It’s a huge milestone,” said DOE engineer Steve DeWitt, who manages the agency’s water power projects. He said a similar non-tribal system will be installed next year in New York City’s East River. But that river is tidal, not continuously flowing like the Kvichak River in Igiugig, he said. More


Concept scrapped for unified Railbelt utility

By: Elwood Brehmer Alaska Journal of Commerce Post date: Wed, 07/17/2019 - 9:26am

Alaska’s Railbelt electric utility leaders are headed back to the drawing board after five years of work now that efforts to jointly manage the region’s transmission infrastructure have failed, at least for the time being.

The utilities behind Alaska Railbelt Transmission LLC withdrew the startup transmission company’s application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity, or CPCN, from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska on June 20. An RCA-approved CPCN is required for any regulated electric utility to operate in the state.

A transmission company, or transco, has long been seen as a way for the five large Railbelt utilities, plus the City of Seward, to coordinate construction of new power generation facilities and pool resources for expensive transmission infrastructure projects that a single utility might not be able to afford but would benefit the customers on the broader system. More


A decision by the governor, and legislators’ inaction, may spike the cost of electricity in rural Alaska

Author: James Brooks Updated: July 14 Published July 12

JUNEAU — A missed vote by the Alaska Legislature and a reinterpretation of the Alaska Constitution by Gov. Mike Dunleavy will cause more than 80,000 Alaskans to see a major jump in their electric bills this month, and the effects will only grow if an ongoing legislative deadlock continues through the end of the month.

Late Friday, Office of Management and Budget director Donna Arduin confirmed in a letter to lawmakers that the Power Cost Equalization Endowment Fund, worth more than $1 billion, will be drained alongside dozens of other savings accounts. Those accounts pay for things as varied as ferry service, oil spill cleanup, antismoking programs and college scholarships.

That drain was required by the state constitution after resistance by the Republican House minority denied lawmakers the votes needed to prevent it. More


Reducing costs still a priority at Alaska Energy Authority

By:  Elwood Brehmer Alaska Journal of Commerce  Post date: Wed, 04/10/2019

Reducing the cost of energy across Alaska remains a priority, so the Alaska Energy Authority’s core mission is not changing according to new Executive Director Curtis Thayer..

AEA’s goal of making energy more affordable across Alaska is intact, but Thayer said on April 5 that Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy has also tasked the quasi-government agency with seeing what it can do to promote economic development in the state.

“The biggest thing the governor, in my conversations with him, said is it’s not only lowering the cost (of energy) but it’s creating the capacity to attract new businesses here — so what does that look like?” he said, adding that Dunleavy is relying on AEA for guidance on state energy policy.

Thayer spoke to a gathering of the Alaska policy think tank Commonwealth North about AEA’s direction under the Dunleavy administration, which has proposed eliminating, consolidating or overhauling numerous programs and agencies to close the state’s projected $1.6 billion budget deficit in the 2020 fiscal year that starts July 1. More


Alaska looks to develop more electric vehicle charging stations in Southeast

Posted by Henry Leasia | Apr 10, 2019

As Alaska Power and Telephone offers to lower energy bills for customers who buy electric cars, the state is looking to build more charging stations in Southeast Alaska.

Four years ago, German automaker Volkswagen admitted to secretly installing software in nearly half a million U.S. cars to cheat government exhaust emissions tests.

As part of a settlement, Volkswagen was required to invest $2 billion in zero emissions vehicle infrastructure, access, and awareness initiatives over the next 10 years.

Alaska received a little over 8 million dollars from that settlement. The state tasked the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) with figuring out a way to distribute those funds.

AEA has decided to designate $125,000 of the settlement for installing charging stations in Southeast Alaska. AEA’s Volkswagen Program Manager Betsy Mcgregor says there are a number of factors to keep in mind when choosing sites for charging stations. More


A solar project in rural Alaska takes aim at sky-high electric bills

By  October 24, 2018
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


Solar array is welcome to Interior: Green energy will take time, let’s have patience

Oct 19, 2018

News-Miner opinion: Coal remains the cheapest form of energy in the Interior, and as such it is likely to remain king in Golden Valley Electric Association’s energy portfolio for years to come. In fact, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new coal-fired plant just went online in late August. The newest technologies have improved coal-fired plant efficiency.

And then on Oct. 12, Golden Valley Electric Association held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its first solar array. The 1,760 panels cover a 2 1/2 acre lot off South Cushman Street. It is capable of producing 563 kilowatts, which is enough to power 71 homes using an average of 660 kilowatt hours a month. It is the largest photovoltaic system in the state. 

It’s renewable energy. And we could certainly use every bit of it as possible in Fairbanks. Energy is expensive and our air quality is the worst in the nation at times. But the solar array only generates a fraction of 1 percent of Golden Valley’s total energy portfolio. The installation of this solar array may be small but it is encouraging.

Alaska, in many respects, is behind the Lower 48 when it comes to technology and infrastructure. The lack of fiber-optic internet cables within our borough is an example of that. Sometimes Alaskans must wait patiently while their friends and family down south enjoy new technologies. It’s always been that way. 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   September 18, 2018

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