“The loss of funding to the REF coupled
with lower diesel prices could lead to reduced
investment in renewable projects in Alaska,”
Meanwhile AEA is working on expanding
capacity at the Bradley Lake hydro facility to
bring more renewable power on to the Railbelt system.
Kilcoyne cited the Salmon Creek Dam in Juneau, built in 1914, which provides hydropower and drinking water, as an historic achievement in Alaska’s renewables energy journey.
“Since then, Alaska has implemented wind
energy in high-energy cost communities on
the west coast and geothermal projects [main-
ly in the Aleutians], and seawater heat pumps
to heat commercial buildings in Seward, Ju-
neau, and soon Sitka,” she says, adding tidal
power is being tested in Yakutat and Cook In-
let, while a river site is being tested by Alaska
Center for Energy and Power in Tanana.
“With thousands of miles of coastline,
tidal and wave have great potential to progress from an emerging energy technology
into commercial viability,” says Kilcoyne.
“With 1.5 billion people without any electricity and over 700 million others who are diesel dependent, Alaska is emerging as a global
leader in the development and operation of
Judy Mottl writes about important issues
country-wide with an affinity for Alaska.
In the early 1980s interest in wind energy
grew due to federal tax reforms providing incentives for renewable developments. But wind
energy in Alaska didn’t work as well as it did in
California, for example, which can easily house
wind farms—which is not the case in Alaska.
“No machines existed that were practical in
Alaska’s arctic conditions,” explains Kohler,
and those failures dampened enthusiasm for
renewables in Alaska for a couple of decades.
While a better designed wind turbine was
developed in the late 1990s, ongoing mechanical issues stymied efficiency. Yet AVEC
has about thirty 100 k Wh machines working
with “fairly good results,” says Kohler, leading the company to consider larger machines.
Robust rene wable energy efforts, says Kohler,
will take place when new technologies can
“smooth out the intermittency of renewables.”
“This means affordable energy storage and
interface technology that prevents the efficiency degradation that comes from operating diesel generators at low loads in order to
assure continuity of power supply,” she says.
Conway, who notes renewable energy in
Alaska predates its statehood, cites large hydro
projects in the 1980s and early 1990s and the
state’s first utility scale wind farm as big markers in Alaska’s renewable energy legacy.
Much of those efforts were funded by the
Department of Energy as well as state funding.
“Prior to the creation of the Renewable
Energy Fund in 2008, the state did provide
periodic direct appropriations to support
the development of additional renewable
projects. The $257 million invested by the
state through the REF, and matched with
hundreds of millions in additional federal,
private, and other funds, jumpstarted the
renewable energy industry throughout the
state,” she explains.
Former Power Plant Operator Charles Green in
front of Toksook Bay turbines that provide renewable energy power to Tununak and Night-mute via an electric intertie.