Each month REAP features one of its Organizational Member or Supporting Organizations to highlight all the great work they are doing to promote clean energy. As you will see, there are a lot of amazing organizations and businesses out there dedicated to developing a clean, stably priced energy future for Alaska. Check back every month to learn more about our Members and supporters, and their commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency in the 49th state.
Kayak Adventures Worldwide
Based in Seward, Kayak Adventures Worldwide has been guiding Alaska’s visitors on kayaking trips through Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Fjords National Park for many years. In addition to offering an experience of a lifetime, owners Wendy and Dave Doughty are committed to environmental stewardship and promote sustainability throughout their business. One way they do this is by donating $2 from every kayaking trip to REAP’s Tour Green program, which supports our organization’s energy education outreach efforts. For more information about Tour Green click here.
For this month’s member spotlight, we talked with Dave and Wendy to find out why Tour Green is important to them, and how clean energy benefits Alaska’s travel industry. Check out our full interview below, or click here to learn more about Kayak Adventures Worldwide.
REAP: Please tell me a little bit about Kayak Adventures’ work with the Tour Green program, and how you’re helping to promote energy education in Alaska.
Wendy & Dave: We’ve been working with Tour Green for three or four years now. We have asked that our contributions go towards the Wind for Schools program. We’ve done that because we believe that education focused on younger generations will have a greater impact than just trying to change the attitudes of the current generation. Of course, we also talk to our guides and our clients about renewable energy and the responsibilities we all carry.
REAP: Why is promoting energy education and the Tour Green program important to your business?
Wendy & Dave: We are in a position to impact people’s lives. Most of our clients are first-time travelers to Alaska. Many of them have never experienced the environment we take them to. We have a chance to help people see the importance of preserving this ecosystem in its present state as much as possible. Our business depends on this fabulous ecosystem.
REAP: In your opinion, how does renewable energy and energy efficiency benefit Alaska’s travel industry?
Wendy & Dave: People come here for the mystique that is Alaska. They come here for many reasons, but largely because this is one of the last places they can find true wilderness and experience it first hand. Alaska’s travel industry is largely dependent on maintaining that experience. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are the ways that we can make a difference relatively easily.
REAP: What would you way to another tour industry business considering being a part of the Tour Green program?
Wendy & Dave: Start now. We all have a responsibility as individuals and business owners to this environment and to future generations. This wild place has given us the ability to work in wonderful jobs and sustain great lifestyles in Alaska. The least we can do if give a little bit back to maintain it for future generations.
Bering Straits Native Corporation
Bering Straits Native Corporation is one of Alaska’s 12 regional Native Corporations, encompassing much of the Seward Peninsula and the coastal lands of eastern Norton Sound. In recent years the company has been involved in numerous clean energy projects, including the Pilgrim Hot Springs geothermal project. If developed, Pilgrim would provide up to 2 MW of renewable power to residents of Nome.
To learn more about energy in Nome and BSNC’s work, REAP sat down with Robert Bensin, Electrical Administrator for the Corporation. Check out our full interview with Robert below or click HERE to learn more about Bering Straits Native Corporation!
REAP: From your perspective, what are the greatest energy-related challenges that Nome will be facing in 50 years?
Robert: The Bering Strait region has to start looking for energy independence in coming years. As communities grow the amount of energy needs are increasing and this has a tremendous impact on the environment. More fuel being transported, larger infrastructure to keep up with growing energy demands, and waste from imported products and water use. Nome has a much higher population than the surrounding communities, giving it more jobs, a stronger economy and resources that are not available in the smaller villages. The issues are no longer just about what needs to be done now, but what needs to be done to make the rural communities self-sustaining.
REAP: I understand BSNC has been involved in the Pilgrim Hot Springs geothermal project. Can you tell me a little bit more about your work on this project, and how it will benefit residents in Nome?
Robert: BSNC has been assisting with operations on the hot springs project over the past few years. Recently we have provided local support during mobilization and on site assistance as needed. It is a very exciting project and BSNC is in full support with making it a great success.
Local labor provided by BSNC worked with the Alaska Center for Energy and Power and contractors to prepare the drill site in 2013 and erect the man camp. Local labor will be used again throughout the 2014 project continuation.
If Pilgrim Hot Springs proves to have the sustainable energy needed to bring power to Nome then it is a major game changer for both Nome and villages in the Bering Strait region. Electricity is not the only recourse the hot spring will provide. Heat from the water can allow for agriculture to be harvested year round and supply all the needs of fresh healthy produce to the entire region. By harvesting locally and not brining in unwanted packaging from outside the region we can start to make a smaller impact on our landfills.
REAP: How has clean energy played a role in your company’s work?
Robert: BSNC, with their subsidiary company Bering Straits Development Company, has created an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Division. Our company has devoted its knowledge and expertise to the energy issues throughout our region. BSDC provides energy audit services on residential, commercial and institutional buildings, installing wind and solar and educating shareholders on energy and the environment. We also have a retail store called Green Energy Solutions that sells energy efficiency and renewable energy items such as LED lighting, lighting controls, engine block heater timers, composters, energy monitoring systems, wind, solar and DHW collector systems.
REAP: Why is being an Organizational Member of REAP important to BSNC?
Robert: BSNC strongly supports the need to find solutions that will make living in rural Alaska less of a daily struggle. REAP is the largest voice in the state that brings these issues upfront, thus BSNC will continue to work with, and support, REAP.
Kodiak Electric Association
Kodiak Electric Association is a major leader in Renewable Energy Development in Alaska. In 2009, KEA installed three 1.5 MW wind turbines at Pillar Mountain, and then doubled the size of the wind farm in 2012. Combined with Kodiak’s 30 MW Terror Lake hydroelectric project, the island now produces over 90% of its electricity from renewable energy. Additionally, KEA recently installed a high efficiency battery system that kicks on almost instantly to provide power when the wind drops off.
To learn more about all of Kodiak’s clean energy achievements, REAP sat down with Jennifer Richcreek, Regulatory Specialist for KEA. Check out our full interview with her below or click HERE to learn more about Kodiak Electric Association!
REAP: Kodiak now generates over 90% of its electricity from renewable energy. Can you tell me how renewable energy has benefited your community economically, and what kind of response you’ve seen from residents about the two projects?
Jennifer: 2013 was an awesome year for KEA’s renewable energy production with 95% of our electric sales powered by hydro and wind energy. 78% came from hydropower, and 17% came from wind energy.
Shifting Kodiak’s source of electric energy from diesel to renewables lowers and stabilizes KEA’s cost of power and reduces pollution liabilities. The fewer gallons of diesel fuel KEA needs to consume for generating electricity, the less impact volatile fuel prices have on our Kodiak community. Minimizing diesel exhaust emissions also buffers KEA from the costly obligations imposed by air quality regulations applicable to major polluters. When our members are able to budget for a more stable cost of power, they are better able to plan for economic development opportunities.
Another economic benefit made possible by KEA’s renewable energy developments is the allocation of Renewable Energy Credits to our cooperative members to boost the market value of Kodiak’s local products and facilities. Kodiak’s seafood products are uniquely branded as both sustainably-managed fish, and products processed with renewable energy. The US Coast Guard Base utilizes its Renewable Energy Credits to meet federal energy mandates established for federal agencies.
Kodiak residents understand the many benefits provided by renewable energy and are extremely supportive of KEA’s efforts in developing renewable energy solutions. The continued support provided by the local community of Kodiak and the statewide community of Alaska has been a major component to our success. KEA’s implementation of renewable energy solutions have also been nationally recognized by the US Department of Energy, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the California Energy Storage Alliance, and has drawn the attention of numerous media outlets that travel to Kodiak to learn how even a small rural electric cooperative like KEA could make a difference in our nation’s efforts toward energy independence. KEA is proud to be the energy solution for our community, and we are grateful for the participation and pride the community brings to their locally-owned electric cooperative.
REAP: Now that phase two of Pillar Mountain has been up and running for a little over a year, how is the project going? Can you give us an update on its performance? How many gallons of diesel are you displacing annually?
Jennifer: The Pillar Mountain Wind Project is tremendously successful, and works synergistically well on our isolated grid system. The first three 1.5 megawatt turbines were installed in 2009 and another three 1.5 megawatt turbines were installed in 2012. Since July 2009, the Pillar Mountain Wind Project has generated a total of 76 million kilowatt-hours of clean, locally-supplied electricity. This 9 megawatt capacity wind farm will continue displace nearly 2 million gallons of diesel fuel every year out into the future.
REAP: What kinds of hurdles (if any) did KEA face when developing Pillar Mountain? I.e. public support, economic, construction in an isolated region, etc..
Jennifer: Integrating 9 megawatts of wind energy on KEA’s isolated grid pushes our wind penetration rates upward to 80%. That’s a significant engineering challenge that required a new kind of energy storage system to bridge the gap between a drop in wind production and the pick-up of hydro production from Terror Lake. Therefore, the high penetration wind project of 2012 involved two major aspects: 1) installing three more wind turbines and 2) adding the appropriate sized energy storage device to stably integrate that much wind energy onto KEA’s system. A battery system was selected as the grid-stabilizing energy bridge, which is discussed in more detail below.
Construction projects in an isolated region, especially those regions with such unpredictable weather and short summer construction seasons as Kodiak, can create scheduling risk. That’s one reason why Pillar Mountain’s wind energy development occurred in multiple phases. For the first three wind turbine installations, KEA spent the construction season of 2008 focused solely on site development so that a full construction season in 2009 could focus solely on turbine delivery and installation. Based on the lessons learned through that process, KEA was then able to complete both the site development and turbine installation for the additional three wind turbine installations in 2012 with only one summer construction season.
REAP: In addition to wind and hydro, you have a high efficiency battery system that is designed to work as power backup should the wind drop off. Can you tell me a little more about this technology and how it’s working?
Jennifer: Xtreme Power’s Dynamic Power Resource is an innovative energy storage technology consisting of dry lead-acid batteries and a unique inverter that allows the battery bank to either inject or absorb up to 3 MW of power instantaneously. Terror Lake provides the long-term storage of unpredictable wind energy on an annual basis, and this battery system provides the short-term storage of intermittent wind energy on the second-to-minute basis.
The moment wind production suddenly drops, the battery system injects power to keep grid frequency stable. During that brief period when the battery is injecting power, a signal is also sent to the Terror Lake hydropower generators to ramp up hydropower output. By the time the battery system exhausts its power supply, the hydropower from Terror Lake is ramped up and ready to balance the load.
Energy storage solutions are a critical component to integrating variable forms of renewable energy, and KEA is pleased to demonstrate how energy storage technologies such as the battery system and hydropower can work in conjunction with variable forms of renewable energy such as wind to displace costly fossil fuels throughout the State of Alaska.
REAP: Why is being a member of REAP important to Kodiak Electric Association?
Jennifer: KEA and REAP share a parallel vision of powering our Alaskan communities with locally-generated, clean renewable energy. Rather than perpetuating dependence on expensive diesel fuel to run our communities, REAP helps bring Alaska closer toward statewide energy independence. KEA strives to be the energy solution for the communities of Kodiak Island, and we are better able to accomplish that goal with the collaboration, policy development, educational outreach, and support provided by REAP membership.
City of King Cove
King Cove, Alaska
The City of King Cove has been a pioneer in renewable energy development in Alaska, building the Delta Creek hydro project almost 20 years ago when the cost of oil was still relatively affordable. City leaders knew fossil fuel prices were going up and saw renewable energy as a way to stabilize their energy costs. Since then the community has displaced over 3 million gallons of diesel fuel, saving more than $4.6 million in the process.
To learn what the City of King Cove is doing to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, REAP sat down with Bonnie Folz, Assistant City Manager. Click HERE to learn more about the City of King Cove.
REAP: The City of King Cove made its first investment in renewable energy almost 20 years ago, a time when no other comparably-sized Alaskan community had undertaken a renewable energy project of that scale. Why did city leaders feel that it was important to invest in the 3 MW Delta Creek hydro project, and how has it benefited the community since then?
Bonnie: Because we knew the hydro resource was available, and we had the support of our visionary mayor and council the administration put the project together. Deciding to invest in Delta Creek was very easy and logical. Prior to that time, we were 100% reliant on diesel fuel and even though the cost of was around $.70/ gallon, our leaders knew fuel prices were headed up and not likely to drop again. Since the mid 90’s when Delta Creek was built, King Cove has saved more than 3 million gallons of diesel fuel, which has resulted in over $4.6 million in fuel savings. Because we pass these savings onto the community, residents have enjoyed one of the “cheapest” costs of power ($.30/ kWh) in rural Alaska. Additionally, because the project has been so successful we are now investing in a second hydro project at Waterfall Creek.
REAP: Can you tell us a little more about this second hydro facility at Waterfall Creek? Specifically, where are you at in the development process and, combined with Delta Creek, how is renewable energy helping you offset diesel fuel consumption in King Cove?
Bonnie: Waterfall Creek will be a 1 MW run-of-river hydro project, similar to the technology being used as Delta Creek. The facility is expected to displace another 65,000 to 70,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and combined with Delta Creek will produce about 70% of King Cove’s annual power demand. Currently we are in the stage right before shovel-ready, and things are moving right along. A bid has gone out for our turbine running, and we expect to make a decision on that by mid-December. Thanks in part to its close proximity to the Delta Creek hydro project relatively limited infrastructure development will be required for the Waterfall Creek. Allowing six to eight months for the turbine running to be built and additional time for road construction, we hope to be up and running this time next year.
REAP: Do you have any words of advice for other Alaskan communities that are considering an investment in renewable energy?
Bonnie: Do it. If you have these resources available, you should pursue funding to build the project. It saves an enormous amount of money not to mention the savings in fossil fuel. To put this into perspective, our hydro facility was recently down for maintenance and in one month we used 23,000 gallons of diesel fuel that we wouldn’t have otherwise needed. That’s a lot of money. The long-term payoff of these projects is huge, and it will go a long way in ensuring energy independence for your community.
REAP: The City of King Cove allows residents to purchase pre-paid electric meters. Can you tell us about this program?
Bonnie: As a way to raise awareness about energy consumption and encourage residents to take responsibility of their usage, the City of King Cove has begun to sell pre-paid electric meters to its residential customers. As opposed to an outside meter that doesn’t give you much information, our pre-paid meters give residents a real time, in-depth look at their electricity usage. The meter is mounted inside the home, so it is a constant visual reminder of how much energy a family is using. If you shut off a TV, or unplug a toaster, you can watch the numbers on the meter go down in a matter of seconds.
We are visual learners so seeing our energy usage in action really helps in making an attempt to fix bad habits. Homeowners are constantly telling us that unplugging unused appliances and shutting off lights in empty rooms are easy ways to reduce their energy consumption – and the pre-paid meter is a constant reminder to do those things. While the program was met with some hesitation at first, it didn’t take long for residents to get excited to use the meters as a way to SAVE MONEY. The saving of energy is a symptom.
REAP: What other measures has the city taken to increase energy efficiency on a community level?
Bonnie: King Cove has gone to great lengths to promote energy efficiency in its buildings. We have installed LED light bulbs and programmable thermostats in all of our facilities, and upgraded our Department of Public Safety building through the Alaska Energy Authority’s commercial weatherization program – including replacing the building’s garage doors, windows and siding. We have also replaced all of our street and harbor lighting with LED light bulbs. The cost savings from these streetlights alone has been huge. Prior to installing the LED bulbs it cost over $12,000 to keep our streets lit for three months. For the three months following the replacement, the City paid about $3,000 to power the same lights. When I saw the bill I was so surprised I called our city electric guy to make sure numbers were correct!
REAP: Why is being a member of REAP important to the City of King Cove?
Bonnie: We think that with our history we can offer something to the conversation about renewable energy in Alaska. We are believers in renewable energy – we talk it and we walk it. We know there are new people coming onto the scene that we can help teach, and there are leaders that we can learn from as well. Being a part of REAP connects us with those different parties, and connects us with other learning opportunities for our community.
Anchorage entrepreneur Theo Graber is the founder of Alaska Dynamics. Last year Theo began working on a new product, the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator. While it’s not available on the market yet, Theo is blazing trails to find clean, affordable ways to implement renewable energy in Alaskan homes. Below is a short interview with Theo to learn more about the Delta-T. Click HERE to learn more about Alaska Dynamics.
REAP: Can you explain how the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator works?
Theo: The Delta-T utilizes thermoelectric modules to scavenge waste heat from a wood stove to generate electricity. It can be fitted to any wood stove in place of the first section of stove pipe. Thermoelectrics produce electricity by harnessing a temperature differential; the Delta-T exploits the temperature difference between the inside of a stove pipe and the outside air. It is fitted with a catalytic combustor which raises the heat inside the device to increase the power output. The catalytic combustor also improves fuel efficiency and reduces emissions as it re-burns the wood smoke. The first Delta-T prototype is almost complete and testing is scheduled to begin next month. The first unit is expected to produce 100 watts of continuous power when the stove is burning or between one and two kilowatt hours a day in the winter.
None of the technology I am using is new. NASA has been using Thermoelectrics in the space program since the 1960’s. The Mars Rover Curiosity currently scooting around the Martian landscape uses a Thermoelectric power source. The Delta-T Wood Stove Generator is a novel assembly of existing technologies.
REAP: How would the Delta-T benefit rural Alaskan communities?
Theo: The Delta-T will provide supplemental power to wood heated homes in rural Alaska and eventually around the world while reducing wood consumption and smoke emissions. It will be primarily marketed to individuals in off-grid applications, or in communities where the cost of power is extremely high. Although cities like Juneau and Anchorage have reasonable rates for electricity, for much of Alaska electricity is extremely expensive. For these rural and interior residents, the Delta-T would pay for itself relatively quickly.
REAP: How have consumers and investors been reacting to your new product?
Theo: The feedback I have been getting for the Delta-T has been overwhelmingly positive. Consumers have been really excited when hearing about the Delta-T, and people from all over the world have contacted me to see when the product will be ready for purchase. People in Fairbanks have been particularly interested because of the air quality improvement the device offers. I have received inquiries from all over the Northern US as well as France, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Japan, and New Zealand. As a market Alaska is my first priority, but I would eventually like to offer the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator to markets in cold climates worldwide.
I haven’t started courting investors yet, I am waiting until my prototype is tested and proven, but in my initial conversations with potential backers I am seeing a lot of excitement. My initial start-up costs were covered through a Kiva Zip Loan, which is an online crowdfunding program that offers zero interest loans to entrepreneurs like myself. The Kiva Loan provided the funds for me to build the prototype while retaining 100% ownership in my company.
REAP: As an entrepreneur, has it been difficult to develop a clean energy project? What are some of the hurdles you have faced?
Theo: I am fortunate to have a skill set that allows me to do almost all of the work of developing and testing the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator myself. During most of my working life I have been involved in manufacturing.
One interesting hurdle has been finding methods to manufacture parts for the Delta-T that aren’t prohibitively expensive. I designed the device to use as many off-the-shelf components as possible but the heat sinks I designed in the core of the device are unique. They are a cast copper part and to have just a few made by a commercial foundry was going to be prohibitively expensive. Eventually when I can buy the parts in bulk they will be much less expensive. With mass production, the front end cost of tooling is much more expensive than the part itself. So I used a single 3D printed model of the part I designed to create multiple identical casting molds with the lost wax casting process here in my shop. I built my own metal melting furnace and am casting the parts myself. It’s more labor intensive for me but I have more sweat to spare right now than money. Casting molten copper is a lot of fun too and an excellent example of the best part of my entrepreneur experience – finding innovative solutions to unique problems.
As an aside, this is a very exciting time for small manufacturers like me to be developing a product. There are tools and technologies available that didn’t exist ten years ago. From rapid prototyping methods like 3D printing to affordable and nimble CAD and simulation software, bringing a product from idea to reality is easier now than ever before.
REAP: Where are you at now with your project?
Theo: I am just finishing the first prototype and will begin testing it and evaluating the design in December. The product development cycle will involve several generations of prototypes, testing, and modifying the design until I am confident the device is safe, efficiently generates power, and is streamlined for manufacturing. The final step will be to submit the design to UL Labs for safety testing and approval. I estimate I am one to two years away from bringing it to market
REAP: Why is being involved with REAP important to your business?
Theo: REAP’s mission to facilitate the development of renewable energy in Alaska, and educating the public about renewable energy is crucial for small alternative energy developers like myself. As awareness grows about the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy so does the potential market for devices like the Delta-T Wood Stove Generator.
Tanana Chiefs Conference
Dave Pelunis-Messier is the Rural Energy Coordinator for Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks. Below is a short interview REAP conducted with Dave to learn more about TCC’s work in the Interior and recent energy efficiency standards they passed for the region. Click HERE to learn more about Tanana Chiefs Conference.
REAP: What are the biggest energy issues for rural communities in the Interior?
Dave: The largest issue for rural communities in this region is figuring out ways to stabilize the costs associated with heat and electricity. While homeowners can burn wood to heat their homes, high heating costs are hitting commercial buildings hard. Schools in particular are really getting squeezed, with heat taking an ever-increasing share of money in these communities. As a result, administrators have to cut jobs and school programs in order to pay their heat bills. Even buildings that were built in the mid-2000’s were designed when energy was cheap and efficiency wasn’t at the forefront of people’s thoughts. As a result managers are left with buildings still heavily reliant upon diesel fuel. TCC has responded by working with schools, water plants, city buildings and tribal offices to utilize new, efficient building techniques and biomass resources to reduce their reliance on diesel fuel.
REAP: Tanana Chiefs Conference recently passed a resolution to implement energy efficiency standards in their region. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Dave: Every year TCC holds a convention where all of the tribal delegates come together and pass resolutions that benefit the people in their communities. Energy has been the number one issue at this convention in recent years, making energy efficiency a giant priority among the delegates. In 2013 TCC passed a resolution saying that all new buildings constructed with public money must meet specific energy efficiency standards, including R50 floors, R70 walls and R100 ceilings. In collaboration with Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Interior Regional Housing Authority, Reina LLC and other designers who are pushing the envelope with high efficiency building technology, TCC has begun to implement super efficient building designs across the region. We are also collaborating with other departments at TCC in order to make sure all of our facilities meet these standards. A clinic in Koyukuk being built next year will be the first to implement the efficiency standards, followed by another clinic in Nikolai.
REAP: Can you tell us a little more about a specific project Tanana Chiefs Conference is working on related to clean energy?
Dave: We are assisting our communities with the installation of biomass systems in many villages to offset diesel for heating needs and source their heat energy locally. On the electrical energy side, we’ve identified solar PV as a mature and easily implemented technology that works well and requires minimal maintenance. Solar panels are being integrated into the energy mix in a number of our communities, including Manley Village and Fort Yukon. In both of these communities our goal is to install solar that will produce as much energy as the tribal council owned buildings consume over the course of a year, effectively making them net zero for electricity.
REAP: Why is being involved with REAP important to Tanana Chiefs Conference?
Dave: Being involved with REAP allows smaller voices to have a seat at the table and help push their energy priorities at a state level. TCC is a collaboration of 42 different tribal councils that are moving towards a common goal. Similarly, REAP is a collaboration of energy stakeholders that are trying to move the state towards a sustainable energy future. To be involved in that conversation is very important to our organization. Additionally, being a member of REAP also gives us the opportunity to collaborate with other REAP members and learn about the successes they are having in different regions of the state.
Who we are
Renewable Energy Alaska Project is a coalition of energy stakeholders working to facilitate the development of renewable energy in Alaska through collaboration, education, training, and advocacy.