Arctic energy advisor Paul McKinley joins ACEP

March 07, 2024
By Yuri Bult-Ito

Paul McKinley
Photo by Jeff Hing/Pomona College
Paul McKinley joined ACEP and the DOE Arctic Energy Office as an Arctic energy advisor.

Paul McKinley joined ACEP a few months ago as an Arctic energy advisor in a joint position with the Department of Energy Arctic Energy Office.

McKinley’s current work primarily focuses on feasibility assessments—detailed analyses of the costs, benefits, risks and opportunities—on integrating hydrogen-based fuels and other long-duration storage technologies to microgrids in order to improve reliability and access to clean energy in remote communities in Alaska. This work ranges from modeling and data analysis to coordinating with industry partners and local communities.

“Alaska is a super interesting place to conduct energy research because Alaska’s energy portfolio is so different from the rest of the U.S. but also because the energy landscape itself varies so widely across the state,” McKinley said.

Investigating such areas as hydrogen and long-duration storage technologies serve to explore alternatives to conventional energy supplies, explained McKinley. Searching for alternatives can potentially benefit high energy consumption sectors and local communities alike.

McKinley has long been interested in Alaska and the Arctic. While studying physics for his bachelor’s degree at Pomona College, he had initially hoped to go into polar climate science research.

While his interests shifted to the energy sector and he studied energy technology engineering for his master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., McKinley maintained an interest in northern climates and looked for ways to pursue energy research in Alaska. Encounters with Erin Whitney, director of the Arctic Energy Office and former research faculty at ACEP, and ACEP’s research engineer Michelle Wilber opened the door for him to join ACEP and the Arctic Energy Office.

McKinley is a valuable asset to ACEP, notes Wilber.

Paul McKinley at the trailhead for the Athabasca Glacier
Photo courtesy of Paul McKinley
Paul McKinley, who loves the outdoors, takes a selfie at the trailhead for the Athabasca Glacier on his drive to his ACEP job in Fairbanks. The glacier is one of the six principal “toes” of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies.

“Paul comes to ACEP with strong research skills and understanding and works with diligence, while greatly improving the capacity of ACEP to address community needs around hydrogen research,” she said.

Aside from energy research, McKinley’s broad interdisciplinary interests have led him to intern with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Polar Observations and Processes group. He is also passionate about science education and has participated in outreach and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching groups.

McKinley’s pastimes include enjoying the outdoors, especially running on trails. He is open to all of the activities that Alaska has to offer, and since he moved to Fairbanks for the job, he has tried skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring and fat biking. He also enjoys cooking, playing the piano, and is attempting to learn guitar.

If you have not met him yet, McKinley would like you to stop by his desk, whether you live in Fairbanks or are just visiting, and partake in the supply of the “chocolate drawer,” right next to his desk.