Southeast energy challenges lead to interest in biomass 

By Amy Condra FOR THE JUNEAU EMPIRE: Water is abundant in Southeast — it falls freely from the sky throughout the summer and fall, filling rivers and creeks that tumble down our mountains, into the lakes, channels and canals, the bays and straits that wind their way throughout the land. Here, this water has sustained humans for thousands of years, providing fish, fur and a means to navigate the region.

And for more than a century it has generated power for homes, offices and industries.

Southeast has a significant number of hydroelectric power projects, and these plants have been a reliable and relatively inexpensive source of locally produced, renewable energy for many of our communities.

But according to a draft of the recently released Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan, while Southeast might have plenty of water to generate hydroelectricity, it is running short of ways to store it.

“We are storage-challenged,” said Dave Carlson, CEO of Southeast Alaska Power Agency and a member of the Advisory Work Group that assisted with the SEIRP. “(The draft plan) identified the problems we know of here, that we had more than a sense were coming. The winter time heating loads have just been skyrocketing.”

Why? Because as heating oil costs have risen dramatically over the past few years, Carlson said, “people have felt it in their pocketbooks, and have decided it’s cheaper to heat with electricity than with oil. It’s a dilemma.” Read more

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