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The Huge Renewable Energy Potential of Alaska

Alaska is a vast state that would stretch from California to Florida if superimposed over the lower 48 states; it has twice the shoreline of all the lower 48 states combined, and boasts a varying geography that includes rivers, volcanoes, and windswept tundras.

Most of the lower states just think of Alaska as an oil state, but it actually has the potential to produce massive amounts of energy from hydro, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources. John Podesta a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton chaired a meeting at the Centre for American Progress to explore the renewable energy potential of Alaska. With the correct investment and development it could produce 40 percent of the US’s electricity from rivers, and 90 percent from tidal sources.

Despite the great renewable energy opportunities rural Alaskan villages are reliant on hugely expensive diesel to power generators for electricity, a system that is threatening the village’s existences due to the rising fuel costs.

With a bit of funding from the government of private investors the Alaskan villages could get their power from wind turbines taking advantage of the windy coastal areas and reducing the need to buy gasoline for $10 a gallon. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaskan Republican Senator, said that “the potential is there, but we're not seeing it. It's extraordinarily expensive when you're not part of the grid.”

"The solution is to figure out how we bring affordable, reliable and renewable energy where people can stay in their villages where they've been for a thousand years.”

Steven Chalk, from the US Department of Energy, has admitted that renewable energy projects are cheaper and more popular than ever, but that Alaska is proving a hard market. “The scale issue in Alaska, that's a big challenge in my mind," Chalk said. "There's not enough pull from the private sector because the projects are too small.” That’s the main problem. The villages only require small installations to provide all their power needs, and they are spread far apart so that transporting the energy becomes a problem as well. If some villages could combine their energy needs, they might be able to attract investment for a slightly larger project.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.om




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