Geothermal Potential in Alaska
Alaska’s location on the Ring of Fire, a volcanic arc circling the Pacific Ocean, means there are many opportunities for geothermal development in the state. There are over 130 volcanoes and volcanic fields that have been active in Alaska in the last two million years, and more than 50 that have been active within historical time (since 1786). Additionally, 100+ sites with thermal springs and wells have been identified across the state. In a project completed in 1982, the USGS identified four major regions that warranted further study for their geothermal potential. These regions were 1) the Interior Hot Springs, running east-west from Canada’s Yukon Territory to the Seward Peninsula, 2) the Southeast Hot Springs north-east of Ketchikan, 3) the Wrangell Mountains and 4) the Ring of Fire volcanoes on the Aleutian Chain, the Alaska Peninsula, and Mt. Edgecumbe on Kruzof Island. The Interior and Southeast both have low to moderate geothermal systems with surface expression as hot springs. The Wrangell Mountains have several active volcanoes with unknown geothermal energy potential. The Ring of Fire hosts several high-temperature hydrothermal systems, typically seen on the surface as host springs, geysers and fumarole fields.
Ground Source Heat Pumps
In Alaska, heat pump systems are used for space heating homes, commercial buildings and public facilities. The Juneau Airport GSHP, in operation since 2011, has saved an estimated $190,000 in displaced diesel fuel. GSHP systems are most applicable in areas with low electric rates and high heating costs. Geotechnical conditions like permafrost are also a factor. In 2012 The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward installed a system that taps heat from seawater in Resurrection Bay. GSHP systems are most applicable in areas with low electric rates and high heating fuel costs.