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Alaskan Villages Energy Self-Reliancy Project

Past Project of A W.I.S.H.

Project Background

Rural Alaskan Communities have the highest utility rates in America. Rural communities pay up to six times the national average cost of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electrical power is supplied by diesel fuel that when transported to these pristine areas result in spills, soil contamination and health risks to Tribal members and workers. With the lowest per capita incomes in the United States, they also pay a disproportionately large share of income for this energy. Because diesel fuel is so expensive, the generators are often turned off at night to conserve fuel. The diesel generators are old and unreliable resulting in frequent power outages, power surges, and brownouts. They are also noisy and their emissions pollute the air, ground and water. The individual members of these communities are constantly pressured to choose between the subsistence lifestyle they desire and the need to generate cash to pay for basic amenities in a location where community and economic development activities are stifled by expensive and unreliable energy sources.

A W.I.S.H. Alaska will oversee the development of three projects in three communities to illustrate the viability of renewable wind, water and solar electric power in remote Alaskan communities while alleviating dramatic hardships for these native communities. Our proposed systems will be designed with real-time monitoring systems to measure the actual energy production and resulting diesel fuel savings through the year. In this way, the information obtained from these systems will help to demonstrate the viability of solar energy and lead to replication in other Native villages throughout Alaska and Canada.

The communities will also be supplied with education and hardware to use electricity in the most efficient manner. Individual community members will realize lower electrical use and therefore lower costs permanently. Energy efficient lighting and refrigeration will be emphasized resulting in a 30 to 40% load reduction for the community. This will also make renewable energy production a more viable alternative to the existing system as small wind, hydro and solar power is able to completely meet the demand.

 

Manley Hot Springs Village Wind Project

Manley Hot Springs is a small community connected by road to the Elliot Highway some 180 miles or four hours driving time from Fairbanks. Manley Village Council has a health clinic and several residences that do not have electricity at this time. The existing utility in Manley is a privately owned utility that charges $0.60 per KwH in addition to a $20 monthly service fee per customer. The utility indicates the cost of producing power is $0.12 per KwH and the remaining costs are attributed to delivery and overhead. Initial environmental information indicates strong and consistent wind on tribal land above the town. Tribal Wind Power production will provide ample power for the clinic and residences. Excess power will be sold to the existing utility at avoided costs reducing or eliminating the need for diesel power for the entire community. While there are regulations requiring the purchase of renewable power by the utility if available, we anticipate some reluctance on the part of the utility and have included legal fees within the budget to assist in setting precedence within the regulated utility environment.

Project implementation will begin with a year of on-site wind data collection so that the proper system can be designed for the site. Community electrical energy efficiency would begin immediately as well. The second year would bring actual power production including the required distribution system, training of local community members in maintenance and operation of the system and integration with the incumbent utility for the sale of excess power produced.

The Manley Community Council fully endorses the project and have indicated that they will provide complete cooperation; a letter of support is forthcoming.

 

Elim Small Hydroelectric Project

Elim is a community located on the Norton Sound coast southeast of Nome. Elim is not connected by road therefore fuel must arrive by barge, risking fuel spills in the marine environment that provides the bulk of subsistence food for Elim residents. The existing utility has opted out of state regulation and has no interest in lowering sales. The community recently had a meeting to establish priorities and Small Hydro development was voted as one of the highest priorities by over 75% of the community members.

The small hydro project combined with electrical energy efficiency will result in Elim becoming self sufficient with sustainable electric power. An appropriate stream that has no spawning grounds has been identified and preliminary information shows it to be capable of providing year round power. It is located approximately 7 miles from the community along existing trails. Road construction has been mapped and planned and lacks only funds for completion.

Current electric power is produced by diesel generators located in the center of town near the school. The Community is very concerned over air quality and the health of the children. Previous attempts to have the utility relocate its generation facility have been met with refusal.

The Elim IRA council fully endorses the project and has indicated that they will provide complete cooperation; a letter of support is forthcoming.

 

Native Village of Venetie Seasonal Solar Power Project

The Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government is the governing body for the northernmost Gwich'in villages in the United States, located north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. In these remote conditions, diesel generators produce all electricity for a total population of approximately 250 people. Since there are no roads to the outside world, fuel must be brought in by plane then transferred to storage tanks, resulting in spills, soil contamination and health risks. Because diesel fuel is so expensive, the generators are often turned off at night to conserve fuel.

This project seeks to demonstrate the use of solar energy in remote northern locations. Typically, people think of tropical locations for solar power. However, with its long summer days -- 24 hours of continuous summer daylight in the NVVTG villages -- Alaska is an ideal technology to begin the transition to a more sustainable energy infrastructure. Solar energy will not mitigate the need for diesel generators in the short-term, however it can significantly reduce the amount of diesel fuel that has to be purchased and flown into the villages resulting in real and immediate economic savings for Tribal members.

We propose to install a 20 kilowatt (kW) distributed grid-tied solar electric (photovoltaic) energy system in the NVVTG villages. This amounts to approximately 10 percent of the villages current demand for power. The systems will be installed on community facilities such as the health clinic, washeteria, or tribal government offices to maximize the benefit and exposure to village residents. Tribal members will be trained on the theory, installation, operation and maintenance of the systems to build internal institutional capacity and reduce dependence on outside expertise. The systems will be designed with real-time monitoring systems to measure the actual energy production and resulting diesel fuel savings through the year. In this way, the information obtained from these systems will help to demonstrate the viability of seasonal solar energy and lead to replication in other Native villages throughout Alaska and Canada.


A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity