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Sustainable Village Energy: Integration of Renewable and Diesel Systems to Improve Energy Self-Reliance

  • Epscor Phaseii Picture 1
  • Epscor 1
  • Epscor Phase II Photo2

Project Summary

This project is a collaborative research effort between ACEP, the Institute of Social and Economic Research (UAA), the Institute of Northern Engineering (UAF), the School of Engineering (UAA), and the Institute of Arctic Biology (UAF).

This project continues research from an EPSCoR Phase 1 award, which expanded existing capacity at the University of Alaska in the niche market technology of hybrid wind-diesel systems. Phase II broadens the scope to include integration of other renewable energy resources with traditional generation and fuel sources. The project’s tasks are designed to reduce implementation barriers and improve performance of existing systems through a combination of improved data management and addressing engineering challenges. 

Project Need

Over the past decade, Alaska has funded the installation of small, community-based renewable energy systems in an effort to diversify its energy portfolio, especially in rural villages where residents rely on expensive imported fuel for both heat and power.  Because of Alaska’s non-integrated electric grid, most communities have their own, ‘islanded’ systems which pose unique challenges to integrate variable renewable energy into their small diesel-based systems. The fraction of renewable energy in these grids is high and cannot be buffered by large scale supply and demand dynamics as is the case in the lower-48 grid.   

The overarching project goal is to increase energy self-reliance in Alaska’s remote rural communities by reducing dependence on imported diesel fuel through strategies that can be replicated elsewhere.

Project Description

The goal of this funding is to enhance the capacity at the University of Alaska to provide leadership in developing diesel-renewable hybrid energy systems for islanded, non-integrated electric grids and their associated oil-based heating systems.

The project runs from October 2013 to September 2016 and consists of mutually reinforcing tasks, each focused around a key objective:

Improve Data Management
A lack of high-quality performance data has been a significant impediment in Alaska for decades. During Phase I, ACEP  developed both a comprehensive database for Alaskan renewable energy systems, as well as robust data collection systems for remote sites. Phase II will continue these efforts, automating the data processing and making the data more readily accessible to researchers and agency partners.

Address Engineering Challenges
Integrating intermittent renewables into a diesel microgrid requires maintenance of power stability, potential use of energy storage, and advanced control strategies. The new energy laboratory at ACEP is capable of recreating an entire village energy grid. We are able to address these challenges not only in isolation or through modeling, but also through full-power and real-world testing and analysis.

ACEP will leverage existing expertise at University of Alaska, national labs, and within the Alaska industry (utilities, developers) to address integration of renewable energy as a component of more sustainable village energy systems. While our work is primarily focused on Alaska, it applies directly to developing nations as they become more energy intensive, and to addressing resilience of the U.S. electric grid as the nation moves toward greater reliance on distributed generation sources.

A full report for Phase I of this project, “Making Wind Work for Alaska: Wind-Diesel Systems for Isolated Communities” can be downloaded from ACEP’s publication database under:

Photo 1: Wind turbines on St. Paul Island. Courtesy of G. Holdmann, ACEP/UAF.

Photo 2: Wind turbines on Kodiak Island.  Courtesy of ACEP.