heating costs throughout Alaska. According
to AEA, through grant funding there are
fifty-three smaller biomass projects currently
underway with eleven biomass systems in design and construction.
Numerous projects are in the development
phase with five pre-feasibility studies recently completed through the Alaska Wood Energy Development Task Group. AEA was just
awarded a USDA grant to develop a best practices handbook to help Alaska schools build
biomass-heated greenhouses. AEA also provides rural Alaska with technical and community assistance to improve infrastructure
and provide more reliable access to power
supplies. The aim is to diversify Alaska’s energy sources and influence relevant policies.
Alaska currently uses diverse sources of biomass fuels including wood, sawmill waste,
fish byproducts, and municipal waste. AEA’s
focus is on reducing oil use, especially for
heating public facilities. There are many innovations occurring, some of which may be
less commonly known such as a demonstration project for fish oil for biodiesel.
Tax Incentives Increase Demand for
Photovoltaic Hybrid Energy
The impact of fluctuating oil and gas prices is
more significant for small and remote communities. While large private and state level
projects are underway, the benefit and acceptance of renewable and hybrid energy use
may be driven by federal tax incentives.
New projects, especially subsidized affordable housing complexes, remote communities, and micro-grids, are taking advantage
of the emerging trend of hybrid energy systems. According to Energy Saver, a consumer
resource from the US Department of Energy,
those who make use of renewable energy
technologies—such as solar energy systems—
are eligible for federal tax credits of 30 percent through the 2019 tax year, 26 percent for
2020, and 22 percent for 2021. The renewable
energy tax credits expire December 31, 2021.
With recent falling prices for photovoltaic
panels, use of solar power in Alaska has increased rapidly, and demand for solar and
other hybrid energy systems is expected to
continue to grow as prices fall, especially for
Alaskans wanting to live off the grid.
Where Hybrid Systems Are Being
Chugach Electric Association, headquartered in Anchorage, is one of Alaska’s largest
electric utilities and uses three primary fuel
sources: 86 percent natural gas, 11 percent
hydro, and 3 percent wind, according to the
association’s annual report.
Chugach recently joined Railbelt partners
Anchorage Municipal Light & Power and
Matanuska Electric Association to sign the
Power Pooling and Joint Dispatch Agreement. The Railbelt electrical grid service areas include six public utilities from Fairbanks
to Anchorage and extending to the Kenai
Peninsula. The Railbelt region includes about
65 percent of Alaska’s overall population.
According to the annual report, this agreement is expected to reduce fuel consumption,