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Alaska: Enhanced Efficiency of Wind-Diesel Power Generation in Tribal Villages

March 17, 2014

Project Overview
Positive Impact: This project is benefitting tribal communities in Alaska with fuel savings, increased revenues to local utilities, reduced heating cost, as well as enabling utilities and customers to control costs. The project is also contributing to increased local employment.
Location: Four remote communities in southwest Alaska: United Tribal Governments of Kongiganak, Kwigillingok, Tuntutuliak, and Kipnuk
Partners: Chaninik Wind Group
EERE Investment:$750,000 in annual appropriations from DOE’s Tribal Energy Program; the United Tribal Governments involved invested $1.25 million, with a total project cost of $2 million
Clean Energy Sector: Renewable electricity generationPDF

The Chaninik Wind Group, formed by the Alaskan United Tribal Governments of Kongiganak, Kwigillingok, Tuntutuliak, and Kipnuk, used $750,000 in EERE funds to implement a multi-village, Wind Heat Smart Grid in the diesel microgrids of their four remote communities in southwest Alaska. As of June 2013, three projects have been completed in Kongiganak, Kwigillingok, and Tuntutuliak. The fourth project in Kipnuk is awaiting final construction funding to build an entirely new power plant. The project goals are to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel by 40% in each of the tribal villages and use wind energy to displace 200,000 gallons of diesel fuel (70,000 of which is now being used to generate power, and 130,000 of which will be captured and stored for use as heat).

Each of these high-penetration, wind-diesel project has a wind capacity in excess of 200% of the peak load. The excess wind capacity is able to displace significant amounts of diesel fuel used for power generation at low wind speeds. At higher wind speeds, the excess wind power is diverted to electric thermal storage units distributed in residences throughout the community. The main objectives are to optimize the displacement of diesel fuel at the utility with wind energy, increase the number of kilowatt hours sold by the utility, and provide a lower-cost source of home heat to residential customers.

The wind energy used for heat is controlled, metered, and provided to tribal members at a 50% discount to their current heating fuel cost. The result of this system is significant fuel savings at the utility and significant fuel and cost savings for homeowners, as well as increased revenue to the utility for excess wind sales. It is estimated that the average homeowner consumes 766 gallons of heating fuel at a cost of more than $6.24 per gallon. In some circumstances, this makes up more than 60% of a household budget. Thus far, the systems are providing a 30% reduction in the use of fuel at the power plant, and at least a 30% reduction in heating fuel used by the tribal residences installed with electric thermal storage devices.

The Chaninik Wind Group also includes local utility managers and energy consultants and represents more than 2,000 tribal members in the lower Kuskokwim region of southwest Alaska. The Group was formed in 2005 because tribal leaders realized that only by working together could they survive the impacts of increasing fuel costs and begin to harness the renewable energy resources available in the region.

The Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs Office (WIP) provides funding and technical assistance to its partners in state and local governments, Indian tribes, and international agencies to facilitate the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

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