Ahtna Native corporation is looking into natural gas development to make the immediate (Copper River Valley) area more liveable as opposed to commercializing its resources specifically as an export commodity. You can read up on it at: http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/ahtna-plans-natural-gas-wells-for-communities/article_14f97256-57b0-11e3-bff6-001a4bcf6878.html. Natural gas is available, and in this case it may be shipped 100 miles each way to Delta Junction or Valdez to change its form for easier transport. Economic development often looks at energy extraction as the ability to get others to buy it to get cash, yet it may be more equitable for the region if they are given somewhat of a ‘energy holiday’ by not having to pay so much on the whole by importing expensive commodities themselves (such as oil). Hoping it works!
There’s been for sometime a stir about the natural gas basin outside of Nenana. Regional native corporation crews have detailed 3D mapping of the reserve and there are unsubstantiated rumors that current clearing along the river is for a gas terminal. Exploration has gone on in the Nenana basin for decades, as in the Minto area (as far back as almost a half century on the latter). There are also rumblings of the tribal corporation in the Copper River Valley planning gas extraction. In any case, some of these tribal finds that could be commercialized would put a gas source within a couple hours of Fairbanks. The question is whether it would lower costs such as the Cook Inlet reserves have for Anchorage, or whether the product would be exportable and tied to world trade market pricing….
Today a series of events clipped electricity from the Kenai. A gas turbine in Nikiski went out, and then a powerline from Girdwood that would provide electricity was cut. Early this morning the power went out, yet just after supper time it had been restored. Yet along with Fairbank’s outage lastweek, the situation demonstrates that having a backup heat source and power source is a good policy. Even utilities remind customers to have several days of supplies in case of outages. Think through of what kind of water source, food, and heat source you may have on hand. What can you purchase, put away or build in order to be ready? Look out for our new publication that may help you think through it, “Considering Off-Grid Energy”.
The Anchorage Daily News has an article today stating that many of Poland’s CEOs have been addressed on current concerns of using coal rather than cleaner, renewable sources (http://www.adn.com/2013/11/18/3182961/un-climate-chief-calls-on-coal.html#storylink=cpy).
“Poland generates some 90 percent of its electricity from coal and Economy Minister Janusz Piechocinski said coal must be a part of talks on reducing CO2 emissions. ‘You cannot have a low-emissions energy transformation without talking about coal, because it’s the second-biggest energy source in the world, he said’.”
The article goes on to say that coal accounts for less than 30 percent of the world’s energy supply but more than 40 percent of energy emissions (according to the International Energy Agency). No doubt this is an average of ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ coals together. This world movement may seem far from us in Alaska, yet may be of interest considering the State’s energy sources.
A professor emeritus sent me a online article from Esquire about Alaskan waters being polluted from Japan’s nuclear failures. Though written more like an editorial than newsfeed, it highlights the pressure of Japanese officials to contain contaminated water which has possibly caused shoddy work providing leaks into the ocean currents which feed Alaskan waters. The article indicates that Alaskan wild and sea life may be exposed to nuclear contamination comparable to what we received during the cold war from nuclear testing. Even if we don’t have a nuclear plant/energy in Delta Junction any more or one put in Galena, we may still be affected by the fall out from other Pacific Rim nations which use it. If you are interested: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/271-38/20382-focus-the-fukushima-crisis-comes-to-the-states.
A thought provoking article appeared this week in the Community Perspectives forum (http://www.newsminer.com/opinion/community_perspectives/we-can-burn-wood-cleanly/article_0d46253c-491d-11e3-9e37-0019bb30f31a.html). Though fuel oil is currently down in price (~$3.80/gal) it will only take an event in the Middle East or distribution problems this winter and the price could be up over $5/gal. People still get around twice as many BTU’s per $ by burning well seasoned wood, and there are bound to be a number of people switching over this winter.
Read the article and see what you think. It may be that with a very late start to winter we may need less fuel and have a shorter heating season. Regardless, remember that timing in harvesting your wood is something you ought consider. As Extension Forester Glen Holt pines,
“The best time to cut wood is in late winter or early spring. All of March and the first week of April are very good, BEFORE the sap runs!
When sap starts running this will load up the tree again with water as it prepares to begin growing again for the new season. In the Fall sap begins to recede back into the roots, no active growth takes place but the tree stores its moisture and much of the nutrients not needed for active growth back in the roots.
It takes until mid winter before this entire translocation apparently is over with and that is why the CCHRC study verifies by trial that late winter very early Spring is best for cutting wood, followed by prompt splitting (opening the wood up), stacking so that the pile is able to breath and drying is facilitated, and the top of the pile is covered or the wood is put under a roof with open sides to protect it from undue rain/moisture.”
If you have any questions about wood harvesting, call Glen at 474-3450. If you have questions about the pricing comparisons of oil and biomass, call Art (Extension Energy Specialist) at 474-6366.
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has a broad expanse of grants and loans beyond traditional agriculture- and thus some of it is energy related. Community development grants, forestry assistance and electrical grid improvement loans are some such endeavors. Recently the list of the recent grid improvement loans was released, yet there are no Alaskan recipients (this may be due to most of them being small rural operations generally of customer bases under several thousand- which in our state the cooperative AVEC runs). Small remote grids and integration may be more and more of a common subject in years to come.
The last couple years there has been a strong media focus on the State’s involvement with energy production and policy effecting private ventures who handle extraction, transportation and distribution. These are macro concerns that state government obviously needs to put effort into due to their scale and the complexity of various statutes and regulations that exist. Concurrently, the State has worked through Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) to increase residential efficiency in the use of energy. (In fact, according to Shaina Kilcoyne, the energy efficiency director for the Renewable Energy Alaska Project, 31,000 known homes have been a part of AHFC’s Energy Rebate and Weatherization programs). Yet the lion’s share of energy in Alaska is used by transportation- and when it comes to space heating and electricity, facilities use dwarfs the overall home use in the state. Going back and providing energy efficient ‘fixes’ in retrofits helps matters, yet proactively the buildings to be constructed in the future will have a strong effect on the amount of energy used for space heating, lighting and ventilation exchanges. Hopefully the State of Alaska (or public municipalities-where they exist) will have an active and strong hand in enabling energy efficient new build equipment and techniques as well as retrofits similar to the residential push (which according to Shaina has save tens of millions of dollars as well as the creation of thousands of jobs).
Japan and several nations are trying to reduce their current nuclear electrical production while one nation stands out as it quickly looks toward increasing the atomic source of power- England. While North Sea oil production has been useful in the past, for domestic purposes it looks like the U.K. is committing to more use of nuclear plants. The hope is that there can be a 80% cut in carbon by 2050 with bringing more plants online (as many current plants reach the end of their life in two decades). If you are interested, take a look at: https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/increasing-the-use-of-low-carbon-technologies/supporting-pages/new-nuclear-power-stations.
Many folks remember the efforts in the late 2000′s to plant a suitcase nuclear reactor in Galena for about 10MW of power. (It was noted as the first non-military nuclear application in the state, provided by Toshiba corporation). At the time some of the villages downriver expressed concern over the effects of fish habitat from affluent warm water be added to the Yukon . Thoughts were the reactor could be operational by this year …. yet the project never went through the lengthy, expensive steps to gaining approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Now many folks don’t know that in the early 1960′s an atomic reactor was put into Delta Junction over at Ft. Greely as a part of the ANPP program through the military with a pressurized water reactor which ran until 1972. So, there have been attempts in Alaska- yet with other systems that have been looked into the scale tends to be too large for what would work for our population.