Energy Update 9-14-11
Although Labor Day week was a short week, it sure was a busy one! Residents made their voices heard in the Mat-Su; construction workers kept busy in Homer; and the Kodiak Island Housing Authority soaked up the sun.
This past Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting was packed tight with opinionated citizens. The topic of conversation- the proposed Wishbone Hill coal mine located between Palmer and Sutton. Mayor Larry DeVilbiss introduced a resolution to endorse the mining project, which would likely truck the mined coal to Point MacKenzie to be exported to Japan. Opponents to the mine spoke about health concerns, the dangers of mining explosions, decreased property values, water and air pollution and safety. However, these concerns were not enough to sway the Assembly’s decision. At the end of the night the resolution passed in favor of the mine with a 5-1 vote. Warren Keogh, the only assembly member who voted in opposition to the resolution, stated that the resolution supported the interests of one corporation, rather than taking into account the impact to the homeowners near the proposed mine site. The ultimate decision of the proposed mine is in the hands of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources; therefore although the Assembly passed the pro-coal resolution it actually doesn’t change the status quo with regards to the development of the mine. Proponents of the mine primarily had one talking point – the mine will create jobs.
Speaking of jobs, construction jobs are on the rise this year in Homer due to increasing energy efficiency trends. Steve Bowen with Little Knife Construction explains that “people are looking for new, energy-efficient houses.” The City of Homer has seen new residential building permits almost double since last year at this time and commercial permits have doubled since last year. Sheldon Beachy, of Beachy Construction, was also surprised by the increased volume of construction projects but like Bowen, you won’t find him complaining about the extra workload.
Homer, Alaska is not the only place witnessing job creation from energy efficiency. Just this week, an article from the Center for American Progress stated that retrofitting 40% of the nation’s residential and commercial building stock could produce over a half of million sustained full time jobs, while also generating over $60 billion per year in cost savings for U.S. energy ratepayers! According to the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for every one million dollars invested in energy efficiency 17.36 jobs are created. With the same million dollar investment, only 6.86 jobs are created in the coal industry and 5.18 jobs are created in the oil and gas industry. However some believe energy efficiency could produce even more jobs than the figures above. For example, Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO and Founding Chair of United States Green Building Council, stated this week that energy retrofits “could be saving $130 billion a year” and could “create nearly one million jobs in the process and for every billion dollars invested in home infrastructure, 25,000 well-paying jobs are created.” No matter which way you look at it, the facts are simple: investing in energy efficiency creates jobs, and lots of them!
Meanwhile, Kodiak Island Housing Authority (KIHA) has been focused on energy efficiency for the past ten years, and recently has taken another step toward clean energy – installing solar panels. Surprisingly, Kodiak has as much sunlight as many places in the lower 48, such as Chicago. Because of the adequate amount of sunlight, KIHA has decided to use 1.8 million in federal stimulus money to pay for solar panels to supplement hot water heaters in order to reduce energy costs on the island. Scott Pillans, owner of Scott’s Plumbing and Heating of Kodiak, explains how the system works, it’s “like a radiator to your car. The heat of the sun, even shrouded by clouds, is transmitted to black rooftop panels containing lines filled with a glycol mix. The mix is warmed by the sun and flows down through a loop that passes through the home’s water heater. A pump returns the mix to the roof to circulate again. In cold weather, the system shuts off to avoid cooling the system.” If the solar project is a success KIHA may also look at wind generation!
Germany now derives 20% of its electricity from renewable energy! Even though they have the same amount of sunlight as Alaska, solar power accounts for more electric production than hydropower! http://bit.ly/q60NJw