Methane locked up in hydrate form on the north slope has been the holy grail problem to crack for a while now so as vast reserves. The problem hasn’t been the location but rather the ability to free up the methane gas safely at the rig, during transportation and application. Now Japan and China are looking at getting the hydrates off the ocean floor and both are having a roe with each other. Japan is talking about working within their constitution to have more defense force available (due to the 1945 agreement to let various Self Defense Force exits.) Hopefully we can look forward to a graceful working outs.
Three unique wood burning related events are slated next month for those interested in Anchorage (BP Energy Center June 2/ 4:30-8pm) and Fairbanks (Cold Climate Housing Research Center June 11/ 11-6pm). In addition there will be a hands on event in Delta Junction demonstrating how to build wood gasification greenhouse heaters the first week of June. Each has a particular group of focuses, yet anyone is welcome to come and each of the events are free.
Anchorage’s event, Burning Wood for Heat, Electricity, and Biochar, includes topics which include:
• Options with residential wood boilers 101
• Choosing a residential wood stove
• Pellets vs. chips vs. logs
• Emissions and particulates
• Greenhouse heat
• Wood care
The Fairbanks Burning Interior Wood symposium will also cover: Options with residential wood boilers 101, Choosing a residential wood stove, Pellets vs. chips vs. logs, Emissions and particulates, Greenhouse heat, Biochar, and Wood care.
Each workshop is free and it is open to all. Call Art at 322-2309 for any information!
Burning wood is a popular way to heat in the Interior, even when oil prices are relatively cheap it seems. For some, economics may drive the amount of wood burned yet heating with wood is almost a part of the Interior Alaskan culture. The Fairbanks North Star Borough has tried over the years to use the carrot (incentives) and stick (penalties)- as well as education- for more efficient combustion overall by wood burners. Tomorrow night the Borough Mayor’s proposal Ordinance 2017-44 to proactively set a bar for future home wood stove installations will be introduced. The focus would be in the more populated parts of the Borough where inversion layers from cold weather compound the problem of outdoor air quality due to the amount of combustion occurring.
The proposal would increase burn ban, increase the cost of permits to install wood combustion devices in homes, increase those who would need to be responsive to burn ban alerts as well as put new requirements of more documentation for those stating that they have no other adequate source of heat. Guidance would be coming from the EPA in part, as they seek to limit the amount of (PM 2.5) emissions for public health reasons. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation would also have a role per guidance.
Keep an eye this week on the news to see how any votes and subsequent changes this week will possibly effect your burning wood in the future!
Kongiganak, Alaska is a village on Alaska’s west coast. As another first, the community is planning to install a lithium ion battery into it’s cogeneration mix as another Alaskan innovation worked out by energy entrepreneur Dennis Meiner. I first met Dennis at DOE’s annual 2010 tribal energy program review, and spending 45 minutes in a 1:1 lunch was phenomenal. His work of the time to bring in 45kw turbines with all the difficulties of permafrost foundations in remote villages has been cutting edge. He was figuring out how utility systems could replace more than half the village’s electric and heating needs with wind energy. He had local residents become the pro’s in the venture. This led to training up a three tribal consortium to run the operation so that they even got to the point of offering help to the lower 48 – this was eye opening from a holistic community/regional development point of view. Efforts included wireless communications in real time of what individual buildings were aggregating for a village’s energy demand wirelessly so as to instruct wind turbines (as the primary or lead generator and secondary diesel generators) to synchronize to optimize output.
At that time the innovative way to deal with electrical overproduction of the wind turbines during strong wind currents was to plow the excessive electricity into resistive heating elements that would store the BTUs into thermal bricks that were in Toyostove looking stove boxes (out of South Dakota). But storage in lithium batteries would work much better. In some villages flywheels have been a good ‘intermediary’ storage when wind is variable and diesel gen-sets need to adjust. But direct electrical flow storage is the way to go if possible….We will keep an eye on the progress, as will much of the world which depends on microgrids for communities of just several hundred.
With new avenues into previously inaccessible arctic waterways (due to melting sea ice), there will be a shift in geopolitical concerns. A Colorado Springs (home of the U.S. Air Force Academy) newspaper wrote an article today noting that with the attention Russia has been getting due to actions in Ukraine, Syria and Chechnya, there is the assignment to the Spring’s Northern Command of what is noted as Alaska’s “fourth coast”. More melt means more navigation possibilities for trade, getting to enemies, and for oil and gas exploration (with eventual extraction/production). Satellite data out of Boulder’s (CO) National Snow and Ice Data Center demonstrates that there has been less sea ice in general with the trend expected to continue in that direction. Thus, with more open water there is the need for more air support from the Air Force.
Russia has the greatest share of Arctic shoreline, and it is in the Arctic where all but 5% of their national extraction of natural gas happens (and all but 25% of their crude oil). With the movement during Soviet times of vast amounts of population into Siberia for mining, metals as well as oil and gas extraction helped to a build up not only of infrastructure but also communities. Now with more shipping, oil spill response and search/rescue functions are being focused on as an area of activity up on the Northern coast. This will only increase a need for U.S. Coast Guard services as well as Air Force work in the area.
One particular support which Alaska’s Senators have worked on over the years is increased U.S. expenditures for ice breakers as Russia has a large fleet of over 3 dozen as well as plans for future for nuclear powered models. The U.S. has only a few and it has been difficult to get attention for the need of more to be in place….. off of America’s “fourth shore” .