The future of sustainable energy on Kodiak Island lies in air source heat pumps to heat buildings and the use of electric cars, according to speakers at the Adapt Kodiak workshop on Friday.
Kodiak is ahead of other communities in generating power through renewable energy sources — hydroelectric and wind generation make up almost 98% of Kodiak’s power sources.
“We see load growth coming from an electric heat standpoint, people using more electricity to get off of diesel, to get off of fuel,” said Darron Scott, president and CEO of the Kodiak Electric Association.
The future of sustainable energy in Kodiak is the use of air source heat pumps which transfer the heat from outside, concentrate it, and pump it into the house whether through air floor heating or air duct systems, Scott said.
These systems can be a cost-efficient way to heat buildings, Scott said, adding that they are “cheaper than using fuel and more efficient.”
New buildings on Mill Bay and Sheratin are already being built with air source heat pumps, he said, and the high school and the fisheries research center on Near Island will soon be upgraded to electric heating systems. The middle school has already been converted to electric heat.
Electric cars are another way to use less fuel, he said.
“All you need is a 220 (volt) plug at your house, plug it in, it charges up at night,” he said.
“You can drive around the Kodiak road system four or five times before you run out,” he said of the approximately 230-mile distance per charge, depending on the car.
While electricity in Kodiak costs about 0.14 per kilowatt-hour, the rates in nearby villages, which are not on the Kodiak electrical grid, are much higher. In Akhiok it is 0.80 per kWh and Karluk is at 0.70 per kWh.
Other communities that have some renewable energy sources also have higher rates, such as Ouzinkie which is “25% renewable on a good day,” said Scott, and has a rate of 0.48 per kWh and Larsen Bay at 0.41 per kWh.
“These communities have significant challenges,” said Tyler Kornelis regional energy coordinator for Kodiak Area Native Association, of having reliable, sustainable energy in Kodiak’s rural communities. The communities “work hard and keep things running, but when it comes to something really challenging it can be really expensive and challenging to replace.”
Some of these challenges include power outages and high fuel cost, as well as safety and sustainability of power sources.
Akhiok is working on projects to replace its electrical grid as well as build a powerhouse that will help heat the village school.
Ouzinkie, which relies partly on hydroelectricity, is working to replace its aging penstock, which is used to regulate the water that flows into hydro turbines and surge systems.
Although funding for these projects is a challenge, Kornelis noted the importance of discussing future opportunities in Akhiok and other villages to generate more stable and sustainable energy.
Kornelis and Scott were two of many speakers at the Adapt Kodiak workshop, which covered topics relating to coastal resilience in the fisheries; infrastructure and energy; food security and subsistence; culture and wellness.
The two-day event was organized by Alaska Sea Grant and funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the National Park Service and the Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands Initiative.