Energy Update 11-23-11
The start of week welcomed us with powerful winds and brutal temperatures, all over the state. As I sat in my Anchorage office watching leafless branches violently swaying outside, I couldn’t help but think of the wind turbines towering above Kodiak, and the future ambitions of our neighbor to the south..
Currently the Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) has a 4.5 megawatt, three turbine wind farm located on Pillar Mountain, which supplies about nine percent of the power to Kodiak’s 6,000 residents. The wind project was completed in July 2009, and since then the city has saved 800 million gallons of diesel fuel, realizing savings of $15 million a year.
Now, KEA wants to move forward with an ambitious energy goal of reaching 95 percent renewables by 2020. How will they get there? By doubling the size of their current wind warm. Darron Scott, the co-op’s president and CEO, explained that the expanded plant is anticipated to supply 16 percent of the city’s power. When you couple this with the already existing Terror Lake small hydroelectric power plant, the goal of reaching 95 percent renewables is very achievable. Scott also spoke about use of electric heat in Kodiak; “Our members are just starting to switch to different forms of electric heat, such as heat pumps and water heaters. That will drive up loads. With the cost of electricity staying constant due to our renewable energy portfolio, as fuel prices increase, members will begin to switch to more cost-efficient electric heat.”
Kodiak residents aren’t the only ones to see more renewable energy projects in their city. Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Company recently received nearly half a million dollars to install a first-of-its kind boiler that is fueled entirely by spent grain. The funds were received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for AmericaProgram, which distributed grants for 52 projects this year. The brewery, that just won numerous awards in Europe’s largest beer festival, presently has to dry their spent grain and ship the waste to Seattle where it is used by farmers for animal feed. The machinery used today to dry the grain is fueled by 50 percent spent grains and 50 percent oil. The new boiler will be fueled entirely by spent grain, eliminating the use of oil in the drying process. Alaskan Brewery claims that the boiler will cut the brewery’s overall energy use from oil by more than 70 percent.
Of course, renewable energy projects are always fun to write about (especially if they concern a brewery), but energy efficiency should always be the first step. Many lucky Southeast residents will soon realize the benefits of energy efficiency as the first fuel. The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted one million dollars to the Tlingit Haida Regional Housing Authority (THRHA) to fund a program to “Super-weatherize” homes for seniors and low-income families in the communities of Angoon, Hoonah and Kake. It is anticipated that the program will lower energy bills by 30 and 50 percent, and the program will create local jobs. It will also address energy conservation and behavior through education and energy use monitoring.