March 2, 2012
By Ed Schoenfeld of CoastAlaska News: Backers of biomass energy pitched wood-pellet heat as a money-saver during a legislative hearing today (Feb. 21st). Alaska Energy Authority staff and others talked to the House Committee on Economic Development about the Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan. The document recommends developing more pellet and other wood heat, as well as some expanded hydroelectric generation.
AEA Biomass Program Manager Devany Plentovich said high fuel prices have driven many residents to heat with electricity instead of oil. “Unfortunately, as we’ve switched so much to the space heating, we’ve seen the reserve hydro just disappear to a remarkable rate. It’s at the point where our utilities are having to supplement the hydro during the winter season with diesel generation. And that’s very high-cost diesel generation,” she said.
Southeast lawmakers and other officials have called for more hydroprojects with more connections to more communities. But the resource plan calls for a larger focus on wood heat, in businesses, offices and schools. And some are already making the switch. Plentovich said wood-pellet heat costs less than oil-powered systems, and has about the same price tag as electric ones. And, she said, boiler conversions are short-term investments.
“The Sealaska building, that’s going to pay back in about four and a half years. The Kake school, if that gets funded through the renewable energy fund, that’s got about a six- to seven-year payback. The Coast Guard in Sitka is looking at about a five-year payback. So these projects have a great economic story,” she said. Read more
December 20, 2011
By Joe Viechnicki of KFSK Radio: PETERSBURG, AK. The agency that sells hydro-electric power to the Southeast communities of Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg is going to look into the possibility of raising one of its hydro dams. The Southeast Alaska Power Agency is trying to make up for a shortage of cheap hydro electricity from an increasing wintertime demand. SEAPA officials say adding new hydro plants to the southern Southeast power grid may not be answer. The SEAPA board met in Petersburg this month and voted to investigate the potential for raising the dam at Swan Lake near Ketchikan, and will hold off on applying for a new project near Wrangell.
June 17, 2011
Robert Woolsey, KCAW-Radio:SITKA, ALASKA (2011-06-16) As communities brace to see which of this year’s state capital projects survive the governor’s veto pen, a proposed energy development on Chichagof Island is already generating controversy. Pegmatite Mountain is a geothermal site on the island. While it’s not yet known how much hot water there is, and how much electricity it could produce, proponents believe Pegmatite is ideally situated to serve three villages with this new, renewable, and relatively inexpensive form of power. The trouble is, Pegmatite – though green – is still development, and Chichagof Island residents are divided over whether the benefits are worth the risks to their remote lifestyle.
Electricty in Hoonah is diesel-generated, and currently goes for $.56 per kilowatt hour, about six times more than it costs Sitka, Juneau, or anyplace else in Southeast served by a hydro power. Although Hoonah’s residential electric customers see a discount due to the state’s power-cost equalization formula, businesses don’t.
Lifetime Hoonah resident and mayor Windy Skaflestad is unhappy about the changes he’s seen in Southeast villages.
“We’re fighting to keep the people here. Take a look at Angoon, Kake – people have left the town and gone to Juneau or elsewhere.”
Skaflestad has long advocated building a road across northern Chichagof Island to connect Hoonah with Pelican, whose small hydro plant has enough surplus energy to help Hoonah. Thirty-five land miles separate the two towns, about half the distance of the water route. Winter gales in Cross Sound also can sometimes isolate Pelican, and it may be three weeks between ferries. Hoonah’s ferry service is far more reliable, on inside waters all the way to the capital. Read more
June 14, 2011
By Joe Viechnicki of KFSK: A new report released this month outlines 33 recommendations for creating new jobs in the forest products, seafood, visitor and renewable energy industries in Southeast Alaska. The recommendations were developed by four groups of industry, government and stakeholder representatives, called “cluster groups.” The report is part of an ongoing U.S. Department of Agriculture strategy called the “transition framework” aimed at diversifying the economy in the region. Hear the full report
April 10, 2009
Two state senators have introduced a bill to create a mechanism to pay for Southeast Alaska hydroelectric projects and complete a regional grid. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said the bill he introduced with Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, Friday is aimed at securing a long-term energy supply for the region.