By Zachary Snowdon Smith
Federal energy officials are partnering with Sitka’s Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, along with four rural Alaska communities, to look into clean energy solutions that would replace the high-cost fossil fuels used to power Alaska’s boats and heat its cities.
ALFA, along with Dillingham, Ouzinkie, Wainwright and Sitka were selected by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to be part of the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project. The partnership utilizes National Laboratories and community-based organizations by providing resources and access to on-the-ground support for remote communities nationwide to bolster energy infrastructure and improve their future energy and economic outlook by measures including the lowering of energy costs.
“Too many Alaskans, especially in rural Alaska, continue to pay some of the highest energy prices in the country,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “The remoteness and lack of infrastructure play into whether or not communities have reliable energy they can depend on. And add to the list of challenges the fact that many of our rural communities are also on the front lines of climate change. Innovation will be a major factor in addressing those challenges.”
Murkowski is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, including the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
ALFA’s fishing fleet relies on diesel fuel imports. With ETIPP, ALFA will investigate the possibility of developing a hybrid fuel or electrified fishing fleet to reduce diesel reliance and increase the earning potential of their members.
Dillingham relies on barge shipments of fossil fuels to power the city’s grid. Through ETIPP, Dillingham and neighboring communities will explore the benefits of the Nuyakuk River Hydroelectric Project.
Ouzinkie currently relies on diesel generators and an aging hydroelectric system for power, and will consider how to optimize its use of renewables and storage.
Wainwright’s power also depends on diesel for its power gird and is looking to employ energy efficiency measures and renewable power where possible to decrease reliance on diesel.
Sitka officials are looking into building up their renewable energy generation to support a growing community, while planning for a more modern grid control system.