28 Alaska Business Monthly | August 2017 www.akbizmag.com
T I O N Energy & Power
Oil is and will remain a vital part of Alas- ka’s economy and a primary source of uel and energy production. However,
as the state’s energy needs grow, so has the need
for additional diversified energy sources such
as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric.
Diversifying energy options in urban areas
such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau is
ongoing but limited. At the same time, small
and rural communities throughout the state
are increasingly turning to hybrid energy as
a solution to rising oil prices, gaining a reputation for developing hybrid energy systems
that are as innovative as they are practical.
According to Alaska Energy Authority, 408
MW out of Alaska’s 2,018 MW of installed
capacity comes from the state’s renewable energy facilities, including one geothermal, two
biomass, four wind power plants, three photovoltaic (or solar), and fifty-two hydroelectric
Defining Hybrid Energy
While the term “hybrid” may sound familiar,
in this context it has little to do with the pop-
ular hybrid electric vehicles. Hybrid power,
or hybrid energy systems, consist of two or
more energy sources used together to pro-
vide power. In power production for use in
utility-scale electric generation or individual
homes, the term hybrid describes a combined
power and energy storage system.
Hybrid energy systems are as diverse as
the different methods of power production.
In Alaska, communities combine whatever
renewable resources are locally available,
whether geothermal, biomass, wind, photovoltaic, or hydroelectric, in conjunction with
fossil fuels such as oil and gas.
Alaska is a world leader in hybrid energy
systems, according to the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) based at the University
of Alaska Fairbanks. With more than thirty
installed systems throughout the state, the use
of wind-diesel hybrid systems has helped offset
the high cost of energy in rural Alaska.
As more rural areas struggle with limited
infrastructure and inconsistent fuel deliveries, the promise of integrating alternative
energy to isolated power grids has proven
useful in reducing diesel fuel consumption
for heat and power.
Economist Mark Foster says, “After having
spent some time looking at wind-diesel hybrids across several rural Alaska communities,
we’ve been finding more long-term promise
with micro- and mini-low-impact hydro- and
How hybrid and renewable energy
power rural communities
By Richard Perry