- Monday, May 17, 2021
MicroFEWs Paper Published in Nature Sustainability
A new analysis of renewable power in four rural Alaska communities emphasizes the need for more connections between their food, water and energy systems, arguing that such collaboration is a key factor in boosting local security and resilience.
The ongoing study, part of a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation, looks at how the systems for delivering those resources in rural Alaska work together. That concept, often called the FEW nexus, is part of a broader research trend to recognize how food, energy and water systems can be made more efficient when viewed collectively.
The team’s findings, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, showed that the web of connected systems in rural Alaska extends beyond the FEW nexus. After renewable energy is introduced to a community, issues like transportation and public policy can still strongly influence its ability to enhance food and water security.
But an interconnected view of those systems is uncommon, the study showed. Food, water, energy and transportation systems are often managed separately, allowing limited opportunities for coordination to maximize their benefits.
“It’s important to look at energy impacts on the community holistically,” said co-author Erin Whitney, a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Center for Energy and Power, who leads the study. “What we really need to do is empower local leaders to do that.”
The research team looked at four communities off the Alaska road system — Igiugig, Tanana, Kongiganak and Cordova — that use a renewable source for energy generation.
Kids run along a boardwalk in the Western Alaska community of Kongiganak. Photo by Amanda Byrd.