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  • Monday, January 23, 2023
  • Whitney Named U.S. DOE Arctic Energy Office Director

Erin Whitney, the founder and manager of ACEP’s Solar Technologies Program, accepted a new position early this year as the director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Arctic Energy Office. During her nearly nine years at ACEP, Whitney led ACEP’s Anchorage-based office and developed a robust Solar Technologies Program that supplies public resources, data and analysis, and technical assistance to support the development of solar photovoltaic technologies in Alaska and beyond.

Whitney supported ACEP’s research by developing a team of highly trained and experienced research staff and faculty who collected and managed technical performance data from remote and isolated energy systems. She managed data collection and analysis for the state’s Emerging Energy Technology Fund and Renewable Energy Fund programs. Whitney also led ACEP’s work on the Alaska Affordable Energy Strategy with respect to technology-specific energy developments for Alaska. She led the multiyear National Science Foundation “MicroFEWs” project, exploring food, energy and water security, and also recently led the University of Alaska’s regional partner team for the Energy Technology Innovation Partnership Program. During part of the 2022-2023 academic year, she was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Germany, studying hydrogen energy systems. She has contributed as a principal investigator and co-investigator on numerous other projects and initiatives.  

Prior to joining ACEP, Whitney was a staff scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, working in next-generation solar PVs, energy analysis, energy storage, electrochromic windows and vehicular hydrogen storage. In 2014, Whitney returned to her hometown of Anchorage with nearly a decade of experience and expertise from her time at NREL and was hired by ACEP to head its Anchorage office. She recognized the potential of solar in Alaska and built a team and rigorous research program to demonstrate that solar PV power production not only is feasible in Alaska but also can be cost-effective when the right technologies and practices are utilized.

Whitney played a pivotal role in founding the Bifacial Solar Photovoltaic test site in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories to gather data on deploying solar PV at high latitudes and associated best practices. She also founded the Hydrogen Energy Working Group, an informal group of stakeholders interested in following this emergent technology and its possible applications in Alaska. 

“During her tenure with ACEP, along with taking on many other responsibilities, Erin built a strong community-centered solar technologies program from the ground up,” said ACEP Interim Director Jeremy Kasper. “Erin’s leadership and scholarship have strengthened ACEP’s partnerships and advanced our mission. We are grateful for her years of service and we look forward to working with her in her new role as director of the Arctic Energy Office.”

Whitney will begin her new role with AEO this month. She is excited to continue championing ACEP and the university. 

“I see my new role as director for the Arctic Energy Office as an opportunity to continue to work on many of the same types of projects that I have worked on with ACEP, but wearing a different hat,” said Whitney. “I hope to amplify the impact of the university and stakeholders around the state on innovative energy projects and deployments across Alaska.” 

ACEP’s Chris Pike will be Whitney’s successor as the new manager of the Solar Technologies Program. Since joining ACEP in 2012 as an intern and later as a research engineer, he worked closely with Whitney to build the program and was a natural choice for filling her position. He has been involved in studying the performance of solar thermal systems in the Arctic, exploring geothermal resources in Western Alaska, assessing solar PV performance in northern latitudes and monitoring statewide irradiance levels. Recently, Pike and a team of researchers from UAF received an award for $1.3 million through the U.S. DOE’s Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale program to study how well one plot of Alaska land can produce both solar power and vegetables.

ACEP wishes Erin the best of luck in her new role and is grateful for the legacy that she leaves. 

 

Erin Whitney is the new director of the  U.S. Department of Energy’s Arctic Energy Office. Photo courtesy of Chugach Electric Association.