The Last Frontier State Turning To Renewables

State Overview

The population of the “Last Frontier State,” Alaska is approximately 0.73 million people. Alaska is the 49th most populated state in the United States.

In 2022, Alaska’s economy was ranked 48th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP). The state’s economy is dependent on oil, natural gas, food processing, timber, mining, fishing, and tourism industries.

Environmental Policies

In 2010, Alaska enacted a nonbinding, Renewables Portfolio Goal for utilities to sell 50% of the electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Power Generation Capabilities

In June 2023, utilities used natural gas (51.2%), renewable energy (24.7%), refined petroleum (12.9%), and coal (11.2%) to generate electricity in Alaska. Hydropower is the dominant type of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Alaska.

In June 2023, the average cost of residential electricity in Alaska was 24.72¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 16.11¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Alaska include:

  • 5 MW Solar Project – In September 2023, New York renewable energy company, Clean Capital commissioned a solar project at a site approximately 25 miles north of the city of Anchorage.
  • 300 kW Hydroelectric Project – In July 2021, Alaskan cooperative, Matanuska Electric Association commissioned the Juniper Creek Hydroelectric Project on the Eagle River, approximately 450 miles northwest of the capital, Juneau.
  • 225 kW Solar + 32 kW Energy Storage Project – In April 2022, Hawaiian renewable energy company, Blue Planet Energy commissioned a solar plus energy storage project in the town of Shungnak in the Northwest Arctic Borough. Shungnak, population 262 is located approximately 920 miles northwest of Juneau.
  • 186 kW Solar Project – In July 2021, Alaska Native Renewable Industries (ANRI) commissioned a photovoltaic solar array in the town of Shungnak.
  • 38 kW Solar Project – In July 2021, ANRI commissioned a photovoltaic solar array in the town of Kobuk in the Northwest Arctic Borough. Kobuk, population 151 is located approximately 8 miles east of the town Shungnak.

Conclusions

Commercial coal mining began in Alaska in 1855, thirteen years prior to the United States purchasing the territory from the Russian Empire. Coal was initially used to fuel steamships, railroads, and furnaces.

In 2022, Alaska had only one operating coal mine, which produced 1.01 million tons of sub-bituminous coal. Alaska’s coal was used to fuel the state’s power plants.

Alaska has significant renewable energy resources, including hydropower, wind, biomass, and solar. The state’s use of fossil fuels (refined petroleum, natural gas, and coal) for power generation has resulted in high electricity costs for consumers.

Remote towns across Alaska are now developing small scale renewable projects, like solar, wind, and mini hydro to provide affordable, reliable  power for their communities. Economics has caused utilities in the “Last Frontier State” to turn from expensive coal, oil, and natural gas fuels to clean, low cost renewable energy.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related issues and topics.

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