Many of the more than 200 remote communities in Alaska are turning to renewable energy to reduce reliance on high-cost imported fuels, and to ensure more independent and reliable energy availability based on local sources. Alaska is home to a substantial fraction of the developed microgrids in the world. Incorporating grid-scale levels of renewably sourced generation, such as wind and solar power, has led to an unusual concentration of experience and expertise in the design, development, and operation of these hybrid renewables-diesel microgrids.
This expertise is relevant to other markets, such as enabling operational improvements in cost and reliability for mobile and stationary military installations. In addition, strategies pioneered in Alaska could be relevant to larger regional or continental grids reorganized around microgrids served by local generation, including a general trend toward higher penetration levels of renewable generation. By sharing lessons learned through projects developed in some of the most remote and challenging environments of the world, Alaskans are also playing a key role in addressing energy poverty globally through the development of local solutions that are resilient, reliable, and sustainable.
This collection of papers is the first compilation of technology and cost reviews on the state of wind power, energy storage, diesel engine, biomass, solar photovoltaic, heat pump, and organic Rankine cycle technologies in Alaska. Also included are the cross-cutting topics of electrical transmission and integration. These reviews dissect the cost structure for capital energy projects and their operations in detail, by investigating their effects on the levelized cost of energy as functions of system size, remoteness, and technology maturity.
The driving factor for renewable energy implementation in remote grids in Alaska is the reduction of the cost of energy. Nonetheless, climate change effects are strongly felt in the Arctic and are changing the physical and geopolitical landscape through changing accessibility to the region. This raises the expectation of greater economic activity, and consequently, increased demand for energy in the region, e.g., operation of a deep port at the Arctic Circle is being discussed. The collection of papers presented here provides a critical piece of information regarding the technical and economic viability of increasing activity by commercial and governmental players in the region. In addition, understanding the potential to tap local energy resources to support both communities and industry is important to enable sustainable development across the region.
These technology reviews were researched and prepared by the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). ACEP is an applied and interdisciplinary research institute with a mission is to develop, research, and disseminate practical, cost-effective, and innovative energy solutions for Alaska and beyond. ACEP developed the reviews to support the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) in its development of an Alaska Affordable Energy Strategy. The intention was to determine what targeted energy technology development solutions could be implemented in Alaska to make energy more affordable in the Alaska Affordable Energy Study area. While the focus was primarily on technical attributes of each technology, other factors such as logistics, labor, and training were also addressed. These reports are not intended to serve as an exhaustive discussion of the energy technologies in Alaska, nor are they meant as design guides for implementation of any technology. The authors wish to thank the Alaska Energy Authority for its funding to support this project.