Rural Villages To Receive State-Of-The-Art Powerhouse

Alaska’s rural villages are getting help from the most recent technological advances in energy saving power systems. The Alaska Energy Authority hosted a rural energy open house in Anchorage Wednesday, to show off it’s latest services to the bush, among them a state of the art modular powerhouse destined for shipment to Akiak.

From the outside, the powerhouse looks like a typical industrial trailer, but inside, it looks more like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Kris Noonan is a manager for AEA’s rural power system program

“This is a complete power plant. It’s a power house module. We basically looked at the requirements for what the community needs for loads to keep the power on, and we built this around what that need is. This will be granted to the community. It was funded through the Denali Commission and the state. There was a 50-50 match on it. So, once this gets out and gets installed in the community, it actually gets granted over to them, and they are responsible for maintaining the system when it’s done.”

Noonan says replacing old, inefficient power systems with electronic equipment, like the new power house, is helping rural Alaska save fuel expenses.

“This module itself is about $1.5 million to build. By the time we get it out to the community and installed, it’s about $2 million to install it. The remaining funds that are there are for other upgrades that need to be done in the community. We have to rebuild their electrical distribution system, we are running fuel lines to the main tank farm and we also have heat recovery lines that we are going to be running to other buildings in the community to give heat to them.”

The powerhouse drew quite a crowd of admirers, among them, Rick Toussaint, who helped build the units and other like it. He says the unit redirects what once was wasted heat so that it can be used to heat additional areas.

“ the generator will produce heat like your car, go through these manifolds, and this heat exchanger will transfer the heat to these pipes, which are in effect will go under ground and they’ll go heat the other buildings.”

AEA intern Corey Fedders says the new power houses in rural Alaska can be monitored remotely by computers in Anchorage. He points to a bank of computers lining a long table, and brings up Unalakleet on one of the screens

“So right now, we have Unalalkeet going up, you got each generator. They have a wind farm up there. We monitor the wind farm, the wind turbines…

.. you see each wind turbine. You can go into each generator, see the RPM, the oil pressure, the status of each engine.”

With remote capability, Anchorage technicians can help on-site power operators to diagnose problems. Currently, AEA moniters about 50 power stations in the bush. Allan Fedders, with AEA’s rural power systems, says the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation has given rural power systems off the highway till 2014 to reduce some pollutant levels

“Because in rural Alaska, the fuel prices are four to eight dollars a gallon, and we don’t want to throw away…we want to use all the energy from that gallon of fuel that we can, and not throw it away. And we still want, these engines, electronically governed engines, are significantly cleaner burning than the old style mechanically governed engines. So we asked EPA if we could have this exemption, and they granted it. “

AEA is working to replace old, inefficient power systems in the bush with diesel fueled powerhouses as part of it’s rural power upgrades program which is done in cooperation with the Denali Commission.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen