McGrath Looks to the Future, Strives for Sustainable, Low-Cost Energy

McGrath Looks to the Future, Strives for Sustainable, Low-Cost Energy

Located in Interior Alaska, McGrath sits on an oxbow of the Kuskokwim River. According to its city webpage, the only way to get there is by airplane, “unless you’re crazy enough to drive a snowmachine or mush your dog team on the historic Iditarod Trail.”  As a participant in the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project, the community is seeking solutions for affordable and sustainable energy to spur future community growth and prosperity.

To address the energy challenges, local residents, city council members, and school, tribe and utility representatives engaged in a series of community meetings facilitated by regional partner organizations Renewable Energy Alaska Project and the University of Alaska. Rob Jordan of REAP and Rob Bensin from ACEP spent three crisp winter days in the community of 300 people inspecting all infrastructure, meeting with community leaders, and beginning conversations between government fuel suppliers and small business owners. Some potential projects of interest include renewable energy and long-term energy storage installations. 

While ETIPP National Lab partners will provide technical assistance for identifying potential renewable energy resources, the community outreach visit laid forward the path for a strategic energy plan and a roadmap of energy profiles and priorities that will help them achieve their goals. 

“We did a consensus-building trip and then gathered data on the existing infrastructure,” said Jordan, who focused on building relationships and community engagement. Bensin leveraged his rural energy and technical experience. Jordan and Bensin also hosted a visit with the future leaders of McGrath — the students of McGrath School. Students learned about their current energy use and explored what potential alternatives to diesel-based generation could look like. 

At the end of their visit, City Administrator Sarah McClellan said, “I cannot thank you both enough for your work here with us in McGrath during your jam-packed visit this week. Needless to say, you two got a lot of people thinking and discussing our community, businesses and individual homes’ needs for energy audits, weatherization, energy conservation, workforce development, population retention and potential supplementary energy sources in the future. We are jazzed about what is next in this journey.”

ETIPP is an initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

For more information on the ETIPP program in Alaska, please contact Rob Jordan at, or visit the ETIPP program website at


Rob Jordan speaks with water treatment operators Chris Fredericks and Teddy Burford outside of the City of McGrath multi-purpose facility. Photo by Rob Bensin.