Sustainable Village Energy: Integration of Renewable and Diesel Systems to Improve Energy Self-Reliance for Remote Rural Alaska Communities
- Gwen Holdmann; Director, Alaska Center for Energy and Power, UAF
- Steve Colt; Institute of Social and Economic Research, UAA
- Ginny Fay; Institute of Social and Economic Research, UAA
- Rorik Peterson; Institute of Northern Engineering, UAF
- Richard Wies; Institute of Northern Engineering, UAF
- Marc Mueller Stoffels; Alaska Center for Energy and Power, UAF
- Terry Chapin; Resilience and Adaptation Program, UAF
- Matt Cullin; School of Engineering, UAA
- Diego Serván Pozo; Masters student, Electrical Engineering, ACEP, UAF
- Alejandra Villabos-Melendez; Masters student, Economics, ISER, UAA
- Nataliya Fedorivna Udovuk; Masters student, Economics, ISER, UAA
- Richard Stevens; Masters student, Computational Physics, ACEP, UAF
- Marc Mueller-Stoffels; Post-doc, ACEP, UAF
- Maura Sateriale; Masters student, Mechanical Engineering, ACEP, UAF
- Mathew Van Atta; Masters student, Mechanical Engineering, ACEP, UAF
- Chris Chance; Undergraduate Student, Mechanical Engineering, SOE, UAA
- Eshwar Chukkapalli; Masters student , Electrical Engineering, ACEP, UAF
- Benjamin Saylor; Masters student, ISER, UAA
- Becky Warren; PhD student, Natural Resource Management, ACEP, UAF
- Dominique Pride; PhD student, Natural Resource Management, ACEP, UAF
- Daisy Huang; PhD candidate, Mechanical Engineering, ACEP, UAF
- Nick Janssen; PhD student , ACEP, UAF
This project expands existing capacity at the University of Alaska in the niche market technology of hybrid wind-diesel systems. Our central project theme ̶ delivering low-cost, reliable, and sustainable energy from a wind-diesel platform ̶ was designed to address a critical research need for rural Alaska. While many parts of the state have excellent wind resources, most communities in rural Alaska are more similar to less-developed countries than to places in the continental U.S. Small populations, isolated off-grid systems, difficult environmental conditions, dependence on imported fuels, lack of roads and infrastructure, and slim, mixed cash-subsistence economies all combine to produce the highest energy costs in the country, with electric power approaching $1 per kWhr, and gasoline prices as high as $10 per gallon. With abundant wind resources across many rural regions of the state, Alaska is already considered a world leader in wind-diesel technologies, but many installed systems are not performing as designed.
Our workplan has been focused on improving understanding of the performance of existing wind-diesel systems. To accomplish this, we have been working with the Alaska Energy Authority to develop a comprehensive database of wind system experience, including underlying climatic and socioeconomic characteristics, actual operating data, projected vs. actual capital and O&M costs, and a catalogue of catastrophic anomalies. This database forms the foundation for the rest of the research program, with the overarching goal of delivering low-cost, reliable, and sustainable energy from a wind-diesel platform. Specifically, we are addressing:
1) High Penetration: Technical issues related to higher penetration of wind, such as power stability, long term energy storage, and advanced control technologies including the use of excess wind power to supplement residential and commercial space heating and transportation.
2) Cold Climate: Issues related to operation of turbines and ancillary equipment in cold climates and remote locations, such as production loss due to rime ice buildup, remote monitoring, and foundation design in areas with geo-technical problems.
3) Socioeconomics: Social, economic, and political barriers to the development of wind, including local capacity to develop and support sustainable systems.
The focal point for development and implementation of our collaborative research plan has been the Wind Diesel Applications Center (WiDAC), based at the University of Alaska. WiDAC was formed in 2008 as a consortium of university, national laboratory, and over 50 industry partners with the goal of supporting deployment of cost-effective wind-diesel technologies. Our EPSCoR program was developed through a series of discussions with our WiDAC partners, and has significantly increased the University of Alaska’s ability to carry out the Center’s mission through key new faculty hires, graduate student fellowships, faculty and staff training opportunities at national labs, and acquisition of needed equipment. Because WiDAC is a strong partnership among manufacturers, the research community, and the technology end-users, it not only serves as a practical and effective mechanism to ensure the project goals continue to be successfully met, but that the overall program is sustainable beyond the timeframe of this project.