$2.4M NSF Grant Studies Impacts of Renewable Energy Systems in Alaska Communities

$2.4M NSF Grant Studies Impacts of Renewable Energy Systems in Alaska Communities

A team of interdisciplinary researchers from UAF and UAA has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation, for a multi-year study to assess how power-generating systems using renewable energy might affect food, energy, and water usage in isolated arctic and subarctic communities. 

These communities are among the World’s least secure, as measured by their ability to sustainably provide food, energy, and safe water - and climate change is forcing them to consider new types of generating systems.  

Some isolated communities in Alaska and around the Arctic are already using renewable energy - including wind, water, and solar - to generate power, and more are considering it. 

The researchers will work in cooperation with several Alaska communities to assess the broad ways renewable energy systems might potentially change life for the residents in those communities.  For example, would paying less for energy allow communities to invest in water-treatment plants - or if renewable energy systems provided excess energy, could that energy be used to heat greenhouses and produce more food locally, or to heat water for sanitation applications?  This research will help guide future community planning efforts in Alaska as well as the larger Arctic region. 

The research team members include: UAF’s Bill Schnabel, Daisy Huang, Erin Whitney, Rich Wies, and Srijan Aggarwal; UAA’s Jennifer Schmidt and Aaron Dotson; Craig Gerlach and Harry Penn from the University of Calgary; independent Anchorage researcher Henry Huntington; and a host of local stakeholders across Alaska focused on food, energy, and water issues.

This award follows from the High Latitude Food-Energy-Water workshop (also funded by NSF), organized and hosted by UAF in September 2016.

Photo: Kongiganak resident drives an ATV toward the community’s wind turbines. Photo by Amanda Byrd/ACEP