Alaskan villages moving from diesel to wind power

What to do when you live in a state with huge oil reserves, but you live so far out that they are super expensive? Move to wind power. Grist published a great article about remote villages that are working to generate power where they are.

Alaska may be home to much of the nation’s fuel resources, but that doesn’t mean power comes cheaply up there. This, however, could be changing … with a little help from the wind.

Currently, about 200 Arctic Alaskan communities use diesel fuel as their primary source of electricity and heat. The costs to transport diesel to the Far North are significant, and these rural villages pay more for power than anywhere else in the U.S. And it’s not just the financial costs that are high.

ClimateWire reports, it’s working:

Kotzebue was the first Arctic community in Alaska to build a wind farm. The city’s electric cooperative began installing turbines in 1997 and has steadily increased its capacity ever since. Last year, wind provided 20 percent of the town’s average electricity demand of 2.5 megawatts.

As its wind capacity has increased, the Kotzebue electric cooperative has been able to cut the amount of fuel it barges into town to run its diesel engines. Last year wind displaced 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel and saved the community $900,000, according to Brad Reeves, general manager of Kotzebue Electric.

Now the Kotzebue microgrid system is looking to further reduce diesel imports by adding a lithium-ion battery unit to its electricity network. The battery, which is the roughly size of a large SUV, will store wind energy when demand is low and tap the power when the renewable resource fluctuates.

“It will be good for that period when we have bands of wind and we have our diesels running,” Reeves explained. “Normally when the winds go out, we’d shift to a bigger diesel unit. The battery will let you stay in that band and keep the smaller diesel on. That will save money.”

See more about the move to wind power in the far north here!

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