Alaska Natives scored big in a $12 million round of energy project grants announced by the U.S/ Department of Energy July 14. Seven proposals from Alaska Native communities and tribes were funded by the DOE of 13 awards made nationwide.
Five proposals from Lower 48 Native American tribes were funded.
DOE’s Office of Indian Energy has been making grants since 2010 to help reduce energy costs and reliability. The awards made July 14 were the first for 2021.
• The Akiachak Native Community will receive $123,220 to install energy-efficient retrofits, including furnaces in the laundry building, as well as an LED lighting upgrade and installation of setback thermostats, in five essential multi-use buildings in the Akiachak Village, which is northeast of Bethel.
• The Kipnuk Light Plant, a tribally owned utility of the Native Village of Kipnuk, southwest of Bethel, will receive $855,978 to purchase, install, and integrate a battery energy storage system into its standalone community wind diesel grid which will displace over 34,000 gallons of diesel fuel.
• The Metlakatla Indian Community, near Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska, will receive $1,031,110 to complete the electrical intertie between its islanded community and the mainland community of Ketchikan, Alaska.
• The Native Village of Diomede, in the Bering Strait west of the Seward Peninsula, will receive $222,848 to install energy efficiency measures in the new store in the Village, Alaska's most remote community situated on an island in the Bering Straits.
• The Native Village of Noatak and the Northwest Arctic Borough, in Northwest Alaska, will receive $1,997,265 to deploy a high-penetration solar PV and battery energy storage hybrid system to integrate with the Village’s diesel electric grid, estimated to save the community more than $178,000 each year.
• The Village of Aniak, on the Kuskokwim River west of Anchorage, will receive $167,948 to install energy retrofits on four essential multi-use buildings and the Village’s Community Center.
• The village of Chefornak. in cooperation with its community utility Naterkag Light Plant purchase, install, and integrate a battery storage system into its standalone community wind diesel grid. Chefornak is Southwest of Bethel.
In Akiachak’s project, the community will install energy efficiency measures on five essential multi-use buildings in the Village. Energy-efficient retrofits include more efficient furnaces in the laundry building as well as an LED lighting upgrade and installation of setback thermostats in all five buildings. The project is estimated to reduce energy consumption and save the Village approximately $17,369 annually and reduce maintenance costs by an additional $2,085 each year. The local cost share is $16,043.
At Kipnuk, the tribally owned utility of the Native Village of Kipnuk, will purchase, install, and integrate a 500-kW/677-kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery energy storage system into its stand-alone community wind diesel grid. The system will eliminate 5,500 hours of diesel generator use annually, which will displace over 34,000 gallons of diesel fuel, provide up to 3 hours of non-fuel emergency power to four critical tribal facilities and save the village an estimated $184,000 annually. The proposed local cost Share of $95,109.
Metlakatla, of the Annette Island Reserve, will complete the electrical intertie between its islanded community and the mainland community of Ketchikan, Alaska. Completion of the last 2.1 miles of the 16.1-mile, 34.5-kilovolt (kV) transmission line will reduce generation costs by significantly decreasing or eliminating the use of diesel generators and ensuring efficient, reliable power for the community. The proposed local proposed local cost share is $1,034,390.
Diomede will install energy efficiency measures in a new store. Diomede is Alaska's most remote community and faces extremely high costs, with an average heating oil cost of $5.00 per gallon. The measures will be installed during construction and are expected to reduce electrical consumption in the building by 29 percent and heating oil consumption by 25 percent, producing annual savings of approximately $4,849.
Noatak Northwest Energy, a collaboration between the Native Village of Noatak and the Northwest Arctic Borough, will deploy a high-penetration 275-kW solar PV and 250-kW/384-kWh battery energy storage hybrid system to integrate with the village’s diesel electric grid.
The system is estimated to generate 15 percent of the community's annual power need, eliminate diesel generator use by 370 hours annually, and save the community more than $178,000 yearly. The proposed local cost share is $310,000.
“We face very high energy costs throughout much of the state. In some of our small communities, rural residents can face electricity rates that are about 800 percent higher than the national average,” said Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who has been active on energy issues.
“When you think about what this means when you are paying that much just to stay warm, that is less that you have available to feed your family,” she said.
“I will never forget the conversation that I had with a foster mom who approached me at town hall meeting in Aniak with a receipt for 5 gallons of home heating fuel totaling $50. She was paying $10 a gallon for her home heating fuel, and she had an infant foster baby and she said ‘this week I’m choosing to keep my house warm. Next week I’m buying formula. These are not choices that families should have to make,” Murkowski said.
“Unfortunately, we know that those stories are heard in far too many of our communities and in far too many of our Native communities. The opportunities with these grants will help translate to the resiliency, to reducing the cost, and to making life better for our families,” the senator said.