Solar news is shifting the focus of many to a new source of energy. Following solar news yields interesting stories – one place that is important to think about is beautiful Alaska with regards to solar energy. In places such as the Last Frontier, it is often economics which are causing people to look into renewable energy – finances can certainly make companies and individuals want to go solar.  

Many people are pushing for the country to go in the direction of solar. Terms such as solar panels, solar power, solar powered photovoltaic panels, and solar energy are becoming household terms and for good reason. Eventually, perhaps all states will go solar. In the meantime, Alaska, the Last Frontier, boasts areas which are going solar. And in remote areas, it’s truly visible how beneficial it is to go solar.  

Piper Foster Wilder, deputy director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, or REAP, states: “Economics, not the environment, are driving the shift to renewables.” 

In other parts of the world, renewable energy or solar is a focus of reducing threats of climate change. But in places such as Alaska, while the environment is important to many, finances are the leading force behind the shift towards renewable or solar energy, especially in more isolated areas. Going solar can make a huge difference in terms of finances for the individuals and families living in more remote areas. Taking advantage of solar power can yield impressive savings, improving quality of life for many. Solar can mean much more affordability.

Why Economics Brings Need for Renewable Energy to Light 

In numerous remote villages in Alaska, the cost of electricity is the highest in the nation (US$1 per kilowatt-hour in some areas – the nationwide average is US$0.12/kwh). The rate is a result of the cost to haul fossil fuels (mainly diesel) to these remote areas by barge or plane – there aren’t necessarily typical transportation options which are available elsewhere. Unalakleet, Alaska, for example, lies in an area that does not have railroads, highways or power lines. Interestingly, Lloyd Shanley, power generation manager at Kodiak Electric Association, Inc.says: “We are up to 99.7 percent renewable energy.” Clearly, going solar is more than just important – going solar is completely feasible. Solar can make the quality of life better as costs go down. For some, solar is the only option.  

As per the Climate Reality Project, Kodiak Electric Association, Inc. delivers electrical power to the area around Kodiak (the population is just under 6,500) on Kodiak Island off the Alaskan Peninsula’s southwestern coast. The principal source of KEA’s power is above town – an alpine lake in the mountains. Kodiak Electric Association ran a penstock from the lake’s steep outflow stream, directing the water into a turbine system. This turbine system contributes a large fraction of the population’s power requirements. An extra 20 percent comes from wind turbines. Clearly, the notion of going solar is very real here. Taking advantage of solar energy is completely conceivable, and going solar will yield tremendous cost savings.  

“Our conversion to renewables has resulted in no increased cost to consumers in nearly 20 years,” said Shanley, something worth noting. Solar energy isn’t costing anyone money – on the contrary, as mentioned, taking advantage of solar power is saving money.  

Then there are companies such as Ocean Beauty, which is one of the biggest consumers of energy in Kodiak, AK. Captivatingly, 99 percent of the electricity which it has generated has come from renewable sources. Canning machines, freezer lights, pressure cookers and more contribute to the company’s monthly electricity bill, as per manager James Turner. Turner states: “We use a lot of power here.”  

The biggest Coast Guard base in the nation is nearby as is a rocket launch facility. All of the power for these facilities is generated from the island – from renewable sources, to boot.  

“Alaskans have been doing this for 50 years,” says National Renewable Lab’s Ian Baring-Gould. According to Baring-Gould, remote communities in Alaska have “an amazing wealth of expertise in that area.” 

This isn’t to say that all of the microgrids in Alaska run on renewable energy, of course. It just means that solar is a positive direction to go in that is completely practicable.  

Flywheels in Alaska 

Kodiak is an area that has, for years, obtained much of its electrical power from a hydro dam. Demand increased, and it relied more on diesel generators. Unfortunately, the price of diesel was high and became an issue for businesses. Wind turbines and batteries to supplement the area’s hydro power were built years ago – this worked for some time, but then the port in Kodiak had the desire to swap out its diesel-powered crane and with one which was electric. When Rick Kniaziowski, terminal manager for the Matson shipping company inquired about getting one, the local utility rejected his request. Luckily, the utility still searched for a solution, recognizing the significance of solar energy, and it ended up finding flywheels. Solar truly is the technology of the future.  

When looking at them on the exterior, the flywheels installed look similar to a trailer that sits behind a chain-link fence. But inside, there is a lot of science going on. According to KEA’s Richcreek, [in the corner of each trailer is a] six and a half ton of spinning mass. It’s in a frictionless vacuum chamber hovered by magnets.” 

Here’s how it works, as per Rapid Shift: When there is additional power on the grid, it spins the flywheel. The flywheel stores the energy as motion, and consequently pumps it back out when a big surge is needed. When the crane is not operating, the flywheels respond to fluctuations in wind power, working with the batteries to steady the grid. Kodiak happens to be one of the first places in the world using flywheels this way. Going in the direction of renewable energy is important, and many places and companies are proving that going solar is very possible and worthwhile.  

Solar news is certainly causing the focus of many to shift to a new source of energy – solar energy. Following solar news leads one to discover stimulating stories – in Alaska, there is a great deal of respect for solar energy. Economics has made companies and individuals want to go solar. Since going solar is better for the planet, this is wonderful news. Keep reading about trends in the world of solar! 



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