Happy Friday Alaska! Here are some conservation headlines from this week that you might have missed. Have a safe and warm weekend!
Posts Tagged ‘Fairbanks’
Today is the first Friday the 13th of 2012. Happy Friday to you all! Here are some links to some conservation articles making headlines that you might have missed last week while you were digging yourself out of all that snow. So grab a hot drink and catch up!
As the holiday approaches I’m getting distracted by fancy tinsel, blue Christmas lights and holiday treats! However, the holiday is not the only thing that I have to look forward to. There are numerous renewable energy projects coming to Alaska in the near future!
For instance, a number of renewable energy technologies are being constructed this winter thanks to funds from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). In the Kenai area alone, ten projects that target small businesses and agricultural producers were funded through the program. Jerry Herring, owner of Central Alaska Engineering and recipient of REAP funds, installed a wind turbine on his property that can produce 6 kilowatt hours of energy in an hour when the wind is blowing at 25mph. The payback for the turbine is 15 years and has a lifespan of up to 25 years. In addition to producing power, Herring can also take advantage of the net metering system and sell power to Homer Electric Association when he doesn’t need it. With Herring’s project and others, I look forward to the sprinkling of renewable energy projects all over the Kenai Peninsula, and throughout the state.
The North Pole is not only receiving letters from Santa this year, it is also getting ready to power up its first Biomass Generator. Bernie Karl, owner of K&K Recycling, has been gathering recycled paper and cardboard for more than a year to use in the new biomass generator. The heat produced by burning the recycled paper products will be converted into electricity and will be used by Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA). Although it’s a small step, the project will move GVEA toward its goal of generating 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2014. Mike Wright, GVEA’s vice president of transmission and distribution, states that GVEA’s “ultimate goal is to get off of oil-fired generation.” Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins is also a fan of the project, claiming that the program will cut landfill costs while providing another outlet for recycling.
The Aleutian Islands are yet another place in Alaska with the potential for renewable energy projects in the near future. Last Tuesday, Cascadia Green Building Council announced that 185 teams from around the world have signed up for the Living Aleutian Home Design Competition, which will be held on the island of Atka. Mark Masteller, Alliance member and Alaska Director for Cascadia, states that “the Living Building Challenge deals with far more than energy, of course, but that’s the big driver in rural Alaska.” The ultra-green Living Building Challenge will require each team to design a 3-bedroom home that is highly efficient, makes use of regional materials and produces its own energy! The winning design will become a prototype for sustainable affordable housing to be used by the Aleutian Housing Authority. The winning design team will receive $35,000 and the chance to build their designed home for Jimmy Prokopeuff, a 32-year old Aleut man.
It is a great time to be in Alaska. Not only because the stage is set for the upcoming holidays, but because the pieces are being put in place all around the state to achieve our goal of a 50 percent increase in electric generation from renewable energy technologies by 2025.
This year, the conservation community in Alaska achieved some important victories, especially in the areas of energy efficiency and clean energy. Alaska Conservation Alliance and our member groups worked tirelessly to realize these successes. Here is an overview of just a few of the efforts:
- Fairbanks First Fuel Analysis-The Fairbanks First Fuel Analysis (FFFA) is a report commissioned by Alaska Conservation Alliance, compiled by Natural Capitalism Solutions, with numerous contributors, like Fairbanks businesses, utilities and regional constituencies. It highlights what energy efficiency investments mean in terms of jobs created, energy saved and money saved in Fairbanks. This report was launched on January 5th, 2011 at a ceremony with speakers including Mayor Luke Hopkins, Senator Joe Paskvan, Senator Joe Thomas, and Representative Bob Miller, among others. The FFFA received excellent media coverage in the Fairbanks News Miner, Anchorage Daily News, and other Alaskan media outlets. For more information and to view the report, click here.
- Energy Efficiency for Businesses- Dave Theriault, the Alliance Legislative Director, worked closely with Senator Wielechowski’s office to secure funding for business and non-profit energy efficiency projects. Staff worked with businesses and non-profits to submit letters to key legislators, testify at hearings, and otherwise contact legislators. The final version of the capital budget included $2.5 million for energy efficiency loans.
- Energy package in the capital budget- The Senate version of the capital budget included a whopping $450 million in energy projects for Alaska. Most of the projects were intended to reduce energy costs with new clean energy projects and energy efficiency. While the entire $450 million didn’t escape Governor Parnell’s veto power, the final version of the budget still included funding for many important clean energy and energy efficiency projects. Some examples are the Mount Spurr Geothermal Project, transmission line upgrades around the state, AHFC’s Home Energy Rebate Program and Weatherization Program, the Renewable Energy Grant Fund, loans for energy efficiency upgrades to Alaska businesses and non-profits, the Eva Creek Wind Farm, and hydro-projects in Southeast Alaska. Alaska Conservation Alliance and the conservation community rallied Alaskans in support of these projects.
- Fire Island Wind- In February, the Anchorage Assembly passed a resolution asking Municipal Light and Power (ML&P) to negotiate a power purchase agreement with the Fire Island Wind Project. While Mayor Dan Sullivan did not support the project, ML&P board members passed a motion in March to support the project. After much back and forth it was Chugach Electric Association (CEA) who ultimately agreed to buy power from the Fire Island Wind. With the approval of the CEA board in June, the fight for the Anchorage area wind farm finally made it over some big hurdles. In October, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska approved the power purchase agreement between CEA and Fire Island Wind, thereby cementing the future of the project. This wind farm could be producing electricity as early as next year. Our Clean Energy Coordinator, Kate McKeown, followed this project every step of the way this year, rallying people to support Fire Island Wind.
- Eva Creek Wind- Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) board of directors voted unanimously to approve the Eva Creek Wind Farm in the Healy area, near Fairbanks. A dozen wind turbines were ordered for the farm in October and ground should break on the project in September 2012.
- Beluga Whales- Several Conservation Alliance member groups including Trustees for Alaska and Defenders of Wildlife worked to ensure Cook Inlet beluga whales listing as an endangered population under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Cook Inlet belugas were listed as endangered in 2008 but the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit last year to strip the ESA protections. Last month the belugas scored a major victory when a judge rejected the state’s lawsuit, reinforcing protection for the whales.
- Celebration of the 50th anniversary of ANWR- This year (starting last December) marked the 50th year of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). While celebrating this milestone, many of our member groups continue to work to make sure that this land is protected. Last month the comment period on the latest version of the Arctic Refuge Plan ended with nearly 1 million people submitting comments in support of conservation in ANWR. The Northern Environmental Center hosted many events and organized people to testify and submit comments in support of the refuge.
- Roadless Rule in the Tongass- In 2003 the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the U.S., was temporarily exempted from the national Roadless Rule. The Roadless Rule, a Clinton administration law, protects wilderness in national forests across the country. Member group Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) joined a coalition of Alaska Native, tourism and environmental organizations in 2009 to sue the federal government to overturn the exemption. In March of this year a federal judge reinstated Roadless protections for the Tongass.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I took advantage of the day by eating more than my share, relaxing and spending time with family and friends. However, turkey and pumpkin pie were not the only things on Alaskans’ mind last week; energy efficiency once again held the spotlight in energy news.
Last Tuesday, the Alaska Journal of Commerce published a great article that highlighted businesses around the state that are saving money through energy efficiency measures. For example, over the past decade, the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (PAC) has gone through a multitude of extensive energy renovations. PAC President Nancy Harbour sought to reduce PAC’s energy consumption after she realized she would be in serious financial trouble if nothing was done to address the high utility bills of the 176,000 square foot building. To date, the efficiency program has saved PAC officials more than $100,000 a year in electricity bills… but they don’t want to stop there. Next summer, they plan on changing out an old boiler with one that is 30% more efficient, as well as making the switch to LED lights for theatrical and visual music art lighting. Harbour states that the improvements are “our way to make things better here in this building and this community.”
Small business owners Mary Rohlfing and John MacCheyne have also benefited from energy efficiency upgrades. Rohlfing, owner of The Bear Square in Anchorage, has saved an average of $500 each month by replacing the air blower and motor system and improving indoor and outdoor lighting in her 20,000 square foot building. MacCheyne, owner of Carpet Plus in Fairbanks, has also kept more money in his pockets by cutting power costs. His lighting retrofit, which is expected to save him $6,000 a year, will be paid off in as little as three years. He claims that, “in an area where energy is so expensive, businesses cannot afford to have that type of expense eating away at their bottom line.”
Also in Fairbanks, The Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce held a work session last week to address their top priorities for the upcoming state legislative session. Addressing how to achieve affordable energy in the Interior was one of the many topics on their priority list. Like small business owner MacCheyne, the Chamber believes high energy costs present a community barrier, “The high cost of energy in the Interior is causing financial hardship and limiting economic growth, to alleviate this situation, we encourage the support of initiatives that lower energy costs and that advance the state’s renewable energy goals.”
On the plus side, energy efficiency and conservation efforts from businesses and homeowners have been successful in Fairbanks. One example of success is seen in the numbers derived by Fairbank’s Golden Valley Electric
Association (GVEA). GVEA grew by three percent over the last three years, but saw a five percent reduction in energy use!
No matter whether you live in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Juneau, or in a rural village, energy efficiency and conservation should be addressed, especially during the holiday season! Shaina Kilcoyne, Energy Efficiency Director for the Renewable Energy Alaska Energy Project, Louisa Yanes, Energy Organizer for the Alaska Center for the Environment and I submitted a Compass Piece that ran in the Anchorage Daily News on Thanksgiving Day. The piece addresses simple energy efficiency tips that each of us can do this holiday season to reduce our utility bills. You’d be surprised how much energy you can save while doing day-to-day activities such as cooking, decorating and buying gifts for family and friends.
Two things that Alaskans wait for all year have finally arrived. In Anchorage, they woke up to the first termination dust on the Chugach Mountains and all Alaskans received word on the amount of the 2011 Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) amount! Both of these noteworthy events signify only one thing- winter is right around the corner. Which also means that utility bills are about to rise, that is unless you are putting energy efficiency measures to work for you!
As winter quickly approaches, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, Mat-Su Mayor Larry De Vilbiss and Kenai Peninsula Mayor Dave Carey joined together in Anchorage to promote energy efficiency and awareness. Specifically, they spoke to the “Energy Watch” campaign, which uses a stoplight concept to communicate with ratepayers when gas delivery pressures falls low enough to cause a crisis due to increased energy demand. Green means use energy as normal, whereas red means reduce the thermostat and cut back energy usage wherever possible. Mayor Sullivan stated that “when you can save three to five percent of the load, you could make a difference.”
Also thinking about energy efficiency last week was the Midnight Sun Brewery. The brewery has started to take steps to become a greener establishment, while spotlighting energy efficiency. Green Star, one of the Alaska Conservation Alliance member groups, has teamed up with the brewery and Alaska Manufacturing Extension Partnership to lead the brewery toward a greener future. Midnight
Sun Brewery General Manager, Gary Busse, stated that the improvements ”will help us not only achieve goals of reducing resources that we are buying now, reduce energy, reduce waste, at the same time from the business point of view [but] also become more profitable and more efficient.”
On Saturday, Fairbanks kicked off Alaska Energy Awareness Month in style with a ‘Parade of Homes’ featuring energy efficiency and smart design. These homes, all built within the last year, showcase the latest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart design. Most of the homes have a 5 star energy rating and one home is completely fossil-fuel free. Look for a full-color magazine about these homes to come out soon from the Interior Alaska Building Association.
Last week was the Alaska Rural Energy Conference in Juneau so stay tuned for many more details about that next week!
By Betty Jo Pritchett
Tomorrow, on October 4th, voters are being asked to vote on Proposition 2, the Healthy Air Initiative. This initiative seeks to curb the worst sources of this pollution to lower the amount of PM 2.5 pollution in the air. The report I’ve been reading is a compilation of 230 complaints made about the air quality since 2009. As a parent, as a human, these complaints have really touched me. Here are some real complaints from real Fairbanks residents:This afternoon found me catching up on some reading that has been lying around my desk. One report captured my attention completely. I’ve been reading 230 Reports of Life and Safety Impacts from PM 2.5 Pollution for the last hour and getting more and more saddened with each passing minute. Some of you may know about the air quality issues facing the residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough. We talked a little about this issue a few weeks ago in one of our Back to School segments. The problem is PM 2.5 pollution, fine particulate pollution, that gets deep into lungs and causes symptoms such as chronic colds, coughing, headaches and asthmatic systems. It also increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke. PM 2.5 pollution has become so bad in some areas that the EPA is threatening action if the borough doesn’t act.
- ‘I just dropped my daughters off at Woodriver Elementary School. The air was so polluted that I started coughing and choking the moment I got out of the truck to walk my daughters across the parking lot to the school. My youngest daughter started coughing and complained of feeling nauseated with a headache. For the record, my youngest daughter is seven years old, and has developed a chronic cough since attending kindergarten. By the time we got to her classroom she was crying and complaining of a headache. I will likely have to retrieve her today because the air is so polluted at that location from a handful of wood and coal fired boilers. Why can’t or won’t you do anything about this?’ –University West, 12/2/2010
- ‘I have a home off of Brock Road; my whole family has sinus problems; headaches and my children are now also coughing. They attend daycare off of Hurst Road and I have chosen to keep them home today as I did not want to take them outside unless it was an absolute must.’ –Badger Road, 12/8/2010
- ‘I have been home all day with my new baby, yet it feels as though I have been in a smoky bar all night!!! I have a horrible headache from this smoke smell, and I cannot imagine what this is doing to my beautiful baby.’- 01/21/2011
- ‘Last night I had to relocate a member of my household to a friend’s house at 1 am because of the amount of smoke in our area. We could not walk outside from the car to the house without coughing from the smoke and it seeps into the house and is making it hard to breathe inside even with air filters running 24 hours a day.’ – Moose Creek, 1/29/2011
- ‘The air quality in our area has been extremely bad at night for the past three nights. My husband had another episode of irregular heart beat last night which lasted about six hours before he was able to go to sleep at around 5am this morning.’- North Pole, 01/30/2011
- ‘I’m running 6 air cleaners to try to maintain some level of breathable air in my home, but the smoke levels woke me up at 4 in the morning and several other times during the night.’- Moose Creek 2/26/2011
- ‘I’m not sure that people living outside of this area understand that it isn’t just the smell of smoke….it’s like having your face right in a choking cloud of campfire smoke with no relief. This is a PUBLIC HEALTH issue, and it is a disgrace to this town and this state to let it continue. Anyone in public office or public service who sits on their hands while babies and children breathe this smoke should be ashamed.’ –University West, 3/5/2011
- ‘My son is 11 and coughs like an old smoker. I’m going to have to take him in to get checked for asthma now. This is ridiculous.’- Downtown Fairbanks, 3/22/2011
- ‘The smoke levels are concentrated enough outside the house that the smoke makes a tinny taste in a person’s mouth…the HEPA filters were not enough to keep it cleared out of the downstairs level last night, so it has been negatively affecting people inside the house as well.’ –Farmer’s Loop Road 3/22/2011
I can’t imagine having to send my children to school every day wondering if they will have an asthmatic episode from the pollution. I can’t imagine not being able to enjoy my own home, my own property because the smoke is causing respiratory illness or irregular heart rhythm. Why do the perceived ‘rights’ of a few to heat their homes how they deem appropriate trump the rights of school children to clean air and a healthy learning environment? Should it trump the right to breathe clean air in your own home? This is not just an issue of a few people being irritated because of a bad smoke odor, this is a public health nuisance affecting hundreds, perhaps thousands of Fairbanks residents. If you are a resident of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, you can help. Tomorrow I hope you will vote yes to Proposition 2, the Healthy Air Initiative.
For more information about the Healthy Air Initiative, go to www.healthyairnow.org.
Happy Friday Alaska! Fall seems to be in full swing around here- I hope you are able to get out and enjoy it this weekend. Here are some articles making headlines across the state this week. Have a safe and happy weekend!
Happy Friday! Hopefully the weather this weekend remains sunny and dry. If you are looking for something fun to do on Saturday afternoon, join us for Bodega-Fest! For more details on this premier tasting event, and fundraiser for Alaska Conservation Alliance, click here.
As is tradition, here are some conservation related articles making headlines this week. Have a happy and safe weekend!
Alaska Family gears up for 2 month expedition- Okay so technically not conservation news but since Hig and Erin do a ton of conservation related work we thought we’d throw this in there.