Can Hybrid Wind Help Alaska’s Rural Poor?
March 17, 2010
Reporter Tara Kyle takes a look at high energy costs in rural Alaska in this article for Change.org
The isolated, impoverished villages of western Alaska are in the sports world spotlight this week. Mushers from across the globe (including, for the first time, a Jamaican) are zooming toward the finish of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a 1,100-mile feat of endurance billed as the world’s “last great race.”…
(But)For all the massive changes Alaska has undergone in the 85 years since (statehood, a pipeline and Sarah Palin, to name a few), the state’s 230 rural villages still lack sufficient access to employment, health care and education. Energy costs are a major culprit. You might think a place so famously rich in fossil fuels that it cuts its residents an annual check just for living there would be immune from spiraling electric bills. But most Alaskan oil gets shipped down to West coast refineries, and these days, oil and natural gas sales in Alaska are tied to world commodity prices. Plus, in a state with lots of land but very few roads, transportation costs are steep.
That crisis is, at least, driving innovation. Alaska is at the forefront of developing wind-diesel hybrid systems, an emerging technology which pairs diesel generators with wind turbines. For rural communities, this means less dependence on diesel’s volatile prices, which have jumped dramatically in recent years. Read more