The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) conducted a feasibility study to determine the most economical solutions to provide biomass energy to the entire Chugachmiut Tribal Community in the village of Port Graham, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage.
The village is only accessible by air or water, making traditional energy sources expensive to deliver and alternative forms of energy difficult to implement.
“The dramatic rise in prices for petroleum fuels has been a hardship to Port Graham,” said Kerryanne Leroux, EERC Research Engineer. “However, biomass available within the region, such as underutilized forest and timber from thinning or clearing activities or trees damaged by severe weather, can be used for fuel to provide heat and power.”
Utilizing fish oil generated from fish-processing wastes is another potential resource for biomass fuel. Fish oil–diesel-blended fuel and indoor wood boilers for heating individual buildings are the most economical options for implementing biomass energy in the village of Port Graham. Estimated savings are up to 20% of the current costs.
“This project is about providing energy from locally available fuels (distributed energy) in remote sites where traditional energy sources are not available. The people of this area are surrounded by thousands of acres of biomass,” said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold. “The key to success is that the technology put in place be easy to operate and maintain. The EERC has many applicable technologies that would be suitable for Port Graham.”
Other options for providing heat and power include a large-scale combustion facility to provide hot-water heat to the entire village, a gasification system for gas heat and electricity generation, or outdoor wood furnaces providing heat to 3–4 homes or community buildings per furnace.
“Challenges to the Port Graham village include coordinating the collection of the wood resource, feedstock storage and delivery, as well as operation and maintenance of any mechanical components installed in the remote village,” said Leroux. “Ensuring emission compliance is also of utmost importance to preserve the pristine local environment.”
The Chugachmiut Tribal Community was created to promote self-determination to the seven Native communities of the Chugach Region of Alaska. Leroux says her study will be used by tribal leaders to formulate an overall energy plan for the Chugachmiut communities.
This project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Tribal Energy Program. The EERC’s suggested plan could be implemented within the next several years.