The Growth of Hydropower in Alaska
FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Universities, National labs, and companies from across the country have been working together to research ways to make renewable energy the best option for communities.
Cordova – a town of just over 2-thousand, is only accessible by plane or boat- and can get caught without electricity in bad storms. Cordova Electric Cooperative is the sole electric company in the area and is working to provide stability for the town’s electricity. They put all of the town’s power lines underground.
“So when we have big storms, we can keep the lights on, and not have to rely on people trying to get into the town in bad weather with planes or ferries.”
Their main source of energy is from rivers – using the power of the river to run turbines. This renewable energy system can produce more electricity than the town needs. One way they keep that electricity from going to waste is with electric car charging stations.
“We just had two couples in town that brought their Teslas over because they knew we had a place to charge, and they’re going to go back and talk to the other teslas user group and they’re kind of planning a trip to Cordova and now that they know we have charging stations there, that makes it an attractive destination.”
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working with the University of Alaska Fairbanks to bring this marine energy up to towns further inland. However marine energy turbines have the potential to disrupt wildlife such as endangered salmon. The collaboration has already finished a project automating a system that will identify the species of fish swimming by the turbine.
“We’ll start the second study in the next several months or so, and that will look at the tagging of the salmon so that we can see what their behavior is around the marine energy systems.”
In the next five years, this project is going to work to bring safe renewable energy to more communities like Cordova. As researchers leave Alaska National Lab Day – they hope to further these collaborations in order to understand Alaska’s unique energy and climate challenges.