Alaska Looking for Clean Affordable Energy in Rivers

Keith Kohl

Written By Keith Kohl

Posted August 17, 2015

Like many of the lower 48 states, Alaska is pushing for a switch to cleaner energy.

And not only cleaner, but more affordable than current energy. As of now, Alaska has between 200 and 300 micro-grids that power remote, icy villages and towns, and most of these are run on diesel gas.

This diesel fuel can cost up to $10 per gallon, according to the EPA. This amounts to an average price of 18.12 cents per kilowatt hour, a price only surpassed by New York and Hawaii, and can reach 40 cents in the more remote areas.

We’ve written before about the state’s ambitions to move from expensive diesel fuel to more economical natural gas—the country’s glut of the commodity would mean a much cheaper energy source.

Yet, this is not the only alternative…

The weather in Alaska would not be conducive to solar power, especially considering the fact that the state is in darkness for several months at a time. Wind and hydro-power, however, are viable options.

King SalmonRemember, Alaska has about 17.1% of the total hydrokinetic energy potential of the entire U.S. The Yukon River is one of the world’s greatest river systems, and has major potential for hydropower generation.

Oceana Energy has patented a design for an underwater turbine that can produce energy from any water source with currents of at least 3 knots. Chief technology officer at the company Ned Hansen estimates that one turbine in water moving at 7 knots could power about 10 homes.

There are a few obstacles the company’s technology face to become a major power source.

First, the turbines themselves will have to be able to survive the rivers. Designs currently include large V-shaped structures to help move debris in the water away from the turbine; there is also a matter of protecting the fish and ecosystem from the turbines themselves.

And unlike another kind of hydropower turbines we reported on last week, this technology cannot be safely inserted into protected pipes, meaning more risk of damage.

So, Oceana Energy needs to find a way to run wires from the turbine onto shore where the power can be collected and distributed without the wires being damaged by the same environmental debris.

Finally, Alaskan power grids, large and small alike, will need to be adjusted to provide more than one kind of power at a time. Much like the rest of the U.S., the state will not be able to switch entirely from fossil fuels any time soon, and will have to integrate both fossil and renewables into its grids.

However, University of Alaska Center for Energy and Power researcher Brent Sheets believes it will be a major step forward. With the higher river volumes and lower power usage in the state’s three months of summer, he says it could be possible “to go diesels off in the summer.”

To continue reading…

Click here to read the Washington Post article.

Until next time,

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Keith Kohl

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A true insider in the technology and energy markets, Keith’s research has helped everyday investors capitalize from the rapid adoption of new technology trends and energy transitions. Keith connects with hundreds of thousands of readers as the Managing Editor of Energy & Capital, as well as the investment director of Angel Publishing’s Energy Investor and Technology and Opportunity.

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