Biomass Energy Project Trains Next Workforce

Biomass Energy Project Trains Next Workforce

University of Alaska Fairbanks mechanical engineering junior Zachary Pinkley will learn a lot about biomass and oil-fired boilers this summer. He will work with Tim Kalke at Sustainable Energy for Galena and the City of Galena as an ACEP utility intern.

The SEGA project was implemented in 2014 because of the community’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. When the U.S. Air Force left its station in Galena, it left behind 1.5 million gallons of fuel. The fuel fed an inefficient heating system for buildings now occupied by the Galena Interior Learning Academy. The community wanted to conserve the fuel and use it to supplement an upgraded, locally harvested wood-fired district heating system.

In his internship, Pinkley will examine all components of the base heating system, including oil and wood fuel storage and transfer systems, oil and wood boilers, thermal distribution piping and mechanical room functions. He will recommend safety and efficiency improvements for the system.

Ten utilities across Alaska are participating in ACEP’s utility student internship program, funded by the Office of Naval Research. Receiving real-life training is a key goal. Interns are matched with Alaska utilities as a way to teach the next generation and to use the skills the interns have gained over their student careers.

For more information on this program, please contact Heike Merkel at


Zach Pinkley took a break from his utility internship with Sustainable Energy for Galena for an evening fishing trip on the Yukon River. Photo courtesy of Zach Pinkley.