Alternative Energy Ideas

Feb 27, 2009


Say No to Palin in Politics Says:
February 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm edit

Jane, how about starting another thread for energy ideas

I started this one on the mudflats forum, too much to copy and paste here. I’m not suggesting actually making the wind generator yourself, but what is needed is good research, organization and grant proposal writing, maybe someone at the university could take up a project? wouldn’t hurt to ask, the sooner the better.,6325.0.html

Share ideas for a permanent solution!

Another part of the fuel/food crisis this winter has been the high cost of fuel and the lack of alternative options available. A few villages have wind farms and feasability studies are being done in others but a major impact from wind power is years away.

If you come across a resource that might help cut energy costs in rural Alaska, please contact them, explain the situation, send them a link to our site and ask them if they can help in any way.

You’ll find a good overview of current use of wind power and plans for further expansion here:

41 Responses to “Alternative Energy Ideas”

  1. UgaVic Says:

    Just to get the discussion going;
    We in the Pilot Point area and around Nunam Iqua are hoping that our swamps are sources of methane gas. There is some reaserach to suggest these swamps might be a good source.

    We are looking for LOW TECH ways to gather this gas, if we find it, so we can bottle it for cooking and possibly able to convert to other uses.
    Anyone that has knowledege of ways or is willing to research for us to help would be great.

    We are currently working with company about doing a fly over with special equipment to help pin point sources, besides visual checking.
    If we can ID a source this might serve as a low cost alternative for some of our household uses.
    IF the source is large enough, and we do not need much for most village energy needs, we believe we can convert our diesel generators for the village power stations over to it.
    This would serve as a major savings to us.

    Also we understand that the burning of methane REDUCES its CO2 output more than letting it just naturally escape. so we could be green too:-))

    Soooo… if you would like to take this on we have people who can help keep the discussion going with you, just can’t devote lots of time right now doing all the research.

  2. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:

    Oh… have to do some digging. Martha Unalaska lil sis was on a tear many.many years ago about our dad using methane gas on the family cranberry farm. She had done a lot of research… not viable there in the end. Is long enough ago that things have changed… Have an idea where to lokk though… back in a bit…

  3. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:

    Well- while I am ‘lokking’ Why not find out about energy conservation items folks might need? To reduce costs all around… now.

  4. Jim Says:

    This is on energy but not methane: I’m fascinated with University of Michigan research that is developing a new kind of hydro power which is scalable from very small to very large. They are preparing to test it in the Detroit River (which I think gets a bit of ice). In the future this concept could possibly get applied in Alaska although you probably wouldn’t be able to use it year round in places where the ice freezes far down (like river channels up north). It apparently has little or insignificant environmental impact. It looks cool– I hope it works. The article is entitled “Fish Technology draws renewable energy from slow water currents:”

  5. CO almost native Says:

    Maybe this article from today’s Denver Post might help:

    I know you aren’t looking at methane from cows, but perhaps other biowastes? The article includes the company building the plant, and how Xcel Energy is involved, so this might give someone some leads, avenues to pursue.

  6. UgaVic Says:

    All – just got hubby Roland to join the forces – this is his area.
    Jim you will laugh as Rollie has been looking at the SAME research in MI.
    Make him tell you all about what all he has going.
    Please forgive his spelling, worse that mine – he is an engineer and was home schooled by a chem engineer – she did her best but agreed she totally failed with him on spelling:-))

  7. Jim Says:


    Its grate tah hav Rollie onbord. Tha onli wey eye cun spel iz with my spelcheckr ternd awn. Duz hi hav spelcheckr tu? (I turnd myne ohf four this mesuge).

  8. UgaVic Says:

    I have been following the Detroit River project. It looks like something that will work up here especially in the summer and more southern areas. It will work at the exits of lakes as they sometimes are mostly ice free due to the current. Energy form water is one of the components up here it especially in our area hour high demand is in the summer with the processing. Currently there are 3 water projects starting in the chignik’s. River water turbines would work in our river only in the summer and would be great for running ice machines and fish processing plants. (Green fish).
    This lower Bristol Bay area has high probability for natural and coal bed methane gas according to the state maps. We have large amounts of coal in our area. (not real good grade)
    We do have some natural seeps of some type of gas coming up. I am in the process of testing them. I know there is methane coming up in one of the large lakes north of us but I am looking for something closer. I am trying to get an area survey done with some military laser gear that can detect hydrocarbon hot spots.

    I am hoping I can fine some methane seeps even small ones close that I can tap. I was also thing of putting some pipes in the swamp and pulling a small vacuum on it to see if I could collect any methane.

    I better get this off before it gets too long.


  9. UgaVic Says:

    I guess I need to get my own name on this thing. How do I do that??

  10. UgaVic Says:

    Have you seen this??


  11. UgaVic Says:

    Jim – Rollie should be getting his own name here in a bit – you two will do fine on the spelling:-))

  12. Jim Says:

    Roland: That’s interesting about methane in the north. I hope the state can help with some grants.

    I was considering contacting the folks at Michigan about their hydro research to see if they’d be interested in trying something out up here. I guess it would have to be seasonal and I’d worry about debris in rivers, but it looks like it should work in some situations. I wonder if the hard part would be converting the hydro power into ac current that could be used.

    Apparently the British get much of their electricity from tidal power.

    I have never met you or your spouse but I can tell you are very special people. I’m amazed with all the projects you are working on.

  13. Sue Says:

    Who owns the land that the oil wells are on? If it is tribal land, then they tribe should have some sort of contract that allows the oil companies to use their land. This contract should include a section that guaranatees all the native Alaskans free or low-cost (be sure to define “low-cost”) fuel for their cooking, heating, vehicles and any other fuel you use. If the oil companies will not give you this agreement, then cancel their leases.

    If the state owns the land, then make your legislators get this agreement for you.

  14. AKRoly Says:

    I got a name now learning new stuff.

    Debris is an issue and but I think there are ways to work around it and each location is different in I am think in deep water most of the debris will be on top. Converting the hydro power to useable ac it the easy part the wind industry coverts wild ac to stable ac all the time. We have such title forces up here the tide races in Cook Inlet and Shelikoff Straits.

    The lands around us are owned by the State Fed and Native. Most of the exploration was done pre land clams. That is a vary good idea as far as I know that is what they are trying to do with the Pebble Mine the local communities want power at the same cost as the mine if it goes through.

    I just read that they made a break through on batters they should be out in 3 to 5 yr.


  15. Jim Says:

    Roland: Somewhere I was reading that a potential problem with lithium is most known world reserves are in Bolivia. But there are other sources too.

    We drive a Toyota Camry hybrid (which has a battery but it’s not lithium) and I love it. It gets about 35 miles/ gallon. I must admit I miss my old 1981 Toyota diesel pickup which got 37 mpg or 29 with air.

    Too bad we can’t use batteries to run snowmobiles. I guess it would take more gas to charge the battery than to run a rotax. But if we were using wind or hydro perhaps we could charge a battery, or a few (when there is a charging source like good wind conditions) and store them for use later. However you sure wouldn’t want your snowmobile to run out of juice at a bad time. You would probably need a hybrid so a gas engine could warm up the battery. And non lithium batteries would be way too heavy.

    Perhaps lithium could work on snowmobiles. Not sure if we will live to see it though.

  16. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:


    Do you know anything about ?

    (Schatz is affiliated with the school of Environmental Engineering I attended. I was in water quality…)

  17. AKRoly Says:

    Alaska Pi

    No I do not know anything about this. It sounds interesting especially the methane part.

  18. AKRoly Says:

    What do you know about these systems??? do you know of any in Alaska I have found some in Canada.
    Do you know the deep ground temp up here????

  19. Alaska Pi ∆ Says:

    Have a hunch the folks who know deep ground temps here instate or know where to find out are at UAF Geophys…Too bad we didn’t compile a list o questions for Vic to drop off at various depts!
    Geologists end up with all kinds of info that can be used in other disciplines- if one can simply figure out who to ask…

  20. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    Keni Yoshikawa at the Univ of A Fairbanks knows ground temps along the Yukon River and North. He makes yearly snowmachine trips putting guages in the ground and he has been doing it for many years.

    I met him when he was putting guages in the ground in Emmonak last year.

  21. AKRoly Says:

    Thanks I will try and get in touch with him. Our area we only freeze down to about 4 feet. I have read the in MI the ground temp is constant at 16 ft down but they don’t tell me what it is in the article frustrating. I found the Ice Kube systems that are a low temp geothermal they say they can operate down to a ground temp of 0 deg f.

    The other think I was think is that we figure out how to take outside air into a mixing box mix it with inside air to 40 deg and blow it into the refrigerator. As long as the outside temp is below 40 deg it should work using less energy. I read that a refrigerator uses about 1/6 of the household energy. We use a vary similar technology in venting the bathrooms in new houses.

    I am stuck in Chignik Bay since Saturday so far it looks like I will be here today also oh well I am getting all sorts of things done to the school. The kids down here were also aware of the Detroit River hydro test project I thought that was cool.

  22. LGardener Says:

    NYC has underwater turbines in the East River powered by tidal flows.,28804,1872110_1872133_1872147,00.html

    Also, a very interesting company in Texas is developing vertical growing systems in greenhouses and for biodiesel from algae.

  23. LGardener Says:

    I’m going to a meeting this weekend sponsored by a guy who wants to start a fuel coop. It seems that ethanol can be made by a variety of products. Info on fodder beets caught my eye. I believe they can be grown in relatively cool climates.

    Also, the author of an ethanol producing book that the organizer helped with did a PBS special back in the 80s that was cancelled because it appears that Chevron threatened to pull funding. I just received the book and am reading it now.

    Wouldn’t it be great if each village produced its own gas? Perhaps one of those villages ruined by Exxon’s oil spill on Prince William Sound………

  24. ugavic Says:

    We could do beets here but I would be interested how many acres it would take. There is probably only 2 working tractors in all of Bristol Bay so large acreage might now work, YET:-))
    Keep us up on what you find out.
    There is also a move in Central AK to do barely stoves and grow it – which is does here.
    I don’t know enough about it.
    Any of you?

  25. Gramiam Says:

    Can you give those of us who want to help, a list of things that would help you use power more efficiently?I’m thinking of things like CFL bulbs, water filters for the pitchers Ann Srongheart mentioned, etc. Also seeds and other lightweight products to help with gardening. I am also checking with Pur water filters to see if they have some way to assist with purifying drinking water. I admire your tenacity and desire to become self-sustaining. We hang together or we hang separately, right?

  26. LGardener Says:

    According to Alcohol Can Be A Gas, 1 acre of Fodder Beets (Morosa) will produce approximately 940 gallons per acre. Sugar beets will produce approximately 400-770 gallons per acre. Barley produces approximately 83-133 gallons per acre. Does sorghum grow in that area? Sorghum (including cellulose) can produce about 3,500 gallons per acre. And corn? It produces about 214-392 gallons per acre.

    There’s also plenty of technical engineering data that might interest your husband. You know, this could be a great business opportunity in Alaska. Quite frankly, rural areas would benefit greatly if they were able to produce their own alcohol for fuel. I believe the fuel may not only be appropriate for heating, but can also be used to power your snowmobiles and any other gasoline powered engines. The fuel can also be used for cooking. Apparently sailboats use alcohol stoves for cooking because it is less dangerous than propane.

    I have a Barnes & Noble discount and a coupon, so I’ll order another copy, then ship to you via your address at Pilot Point. You should have it sometime next week. My packages are taking five days to get to Pilot Point from NYC.

    I’ve gotten through almost one-fourth of the book and found out some real eye-popping, dirty little facts about the oil industry and how they’ve been fighting like hell to keep fuel from alcohol off the market. For example, did you know that John D. Rockefeller funded the temperance movement with $4 million dollars in 1918 to lobby Congress for Prohibition? That would be about $50 million today. Was he that devout? Actually, he had a lucrative kerosene business of which gasoline was a byproduct. With the passage of the Prohibition amendment, gasoline had about 15 years of no competition with alcohol.

  27. Nan Says:

    This was just posted on Mudflats by “SMR”:

    Heard about this on public radio today:

    Income levels have been raised for those who can qualify for financial assistance with heating bills. So, even if you’ve not qualified in the past, you might do so under the new rules. Please, Alaskans, check it out, and pass it on so that everyone can get the help that they need.

    so check it out!

  28. JuneauJoe Δ Says:

    A HS student from Emmonak had a science project of using solar cells to make electricity. Gunner Gregory wants to bring solar energy to Emmonak.

  29. Peaceful Granny Says:

    After you find out the new energy assistance regs, find out how many in the village are eligible for assistance and if possible how much fuel they would be getting/using next winter, then form some kind of co-op and order that amount of fuel to be brought in at the lowest possible price…buy in a bulk form like that should get you a better rate and make the supplier throw in the tank and security system to protect it for the winter. You should already know how many houses use how much fuel last winter. The supplier already knows this and is counting on selling you that amount next winter at as high a rate as possible. Turn the table on them and ask for a break now, or go someplace else.

    Also contract with suppiers to get the fuel as close to where it is needed to be use as possible. You should not have to travel 25 miles to fill up with gas, using half it to get home. How can you get larger better sources/ amounts closer to home. How far apart are your homes and buildings?

    One question that I haven’t seen address, just can read so much right now, eyes get tired pretty fast…what are you doing with methane in your honey huts? You don’t have a sewage plant? Or has that already been developed for use some place?

  30. Peaceful Granny Says:

    I didn’t look, yet but the fed winterization program has lots of money to do upgrades on weatherizing houses to save energy, I wrote the grant that started our program here in Lewiston in the 70’s and it is still getting money every summer, to up grade homes here, don’t let the Gino tell you can’t get fed funds there, it’s just a matter of putting the data together and making an application, if you don’t get it this year, just keep sending in the forms until it comes through. With computers it has to be a snap to fill out the forms these days, most likely they are all on PDF. Give six strong highschool boys a summer job fixing up grandpa house. Then move on to the next one that is eligible. I got funds for the alochol rehab program to train “civic service” kids that had to to their time…was cool to teach them a trade, move them from one small community to the next until we had all the old 40’s houses done…then went on to do new construction the same way with 335 houses.

  31. Peaceful Granny Says:

    @ Nan:I just took a look at that dpa application site, it was just as I thought the payments will go straight to the supplier, unless you organize folks before or as they make their apps out….get them to collectively order in bulk at the same time to bring the price down….it is to the suppliers advantage to hold the price up as high as they can, knowing that those who are eligible will be forced to pay the price….any price…again don’t let them win this next winter. They want to make you think you are paying off last winters fuel bills at those high prices…but insist that you are not going to play that game anymore. If they can keep you thinking “poor” and that their isn’t enough they can gouge you out of that “buying” power. Together you have the power to set the price. Remember they are counting on getting that energy cash, in fact they were the ones that lobbied to get it passed, because it only goes to them…anyway. You could think of it as saving your fed dollars, to buy collectively.

  32. Rob Rosenfeld Says:

    It is good to see this discussion happening. Check out the December addition of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council newsletter to see photos and a write up on hydrokinetic (hydroelectric) unit that was installed in Ruby, Alaska on the Yukon River last summer. It is a 5kw unit and has already produced energy. The YRITWC now has funds secured to install a 25kw unit. I have worked for the YRITWC for 12 years. Eleven years has been as the Director in Alaska. I am pleased to say that the tribes are breaking new ground. check it out:

    There is no “silver bullet” for renewable energy. Therefore we need to diversify as much as possible. I will be talking a great deal about how to do this during my run for Governor of Alaska.

    The Natural Gas pipeline is one important ingredient to the solution. Additionally, we should take propane off the pipeline in strategic locations and barge the propane to communities that live on interior Alaskan Rivers. I checked with one of the major barge companies and they see this as viable.

    We also need to develop wave, tidal and hydro energy and utilize as much wind and solar as possible. Biofuels will create many jobs and provide energy as well. Willows grow fast in Alaska and can be turned into chips and pellets for burning. The old discarded fuel tanks can be used for storage of the pellets at times.

    Let’s keep talking about what is possible

  33. anonymousbloggers Says:

    We have posted Rob’s comment on the main page of the blog. Please leave related comments on Rob’s renewable energy thread.

  34. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Old Tractors-

    If you are talking about the anonymousbloggers blog template, it’s a WordPress standard template with a custom head that I did in Fireworks.


  35. lgardener Says:

    I know this may seem a bit farfetched, but I found a website for a company that is selling portable ethanol distillers. It can make about 1,800 gallons per year in temperatures as low as -20 degrees, so I’m guessing if it were kept in a building that could be kept at a minimum temperature of 0 degrees, you’d get year round production.

    The price is over 9K for the equipment, but I figured that works out to about 26 cents per gallon over the lifetime of equipment (after the 30% tax credit). That price does not include the feedstock, but whatever the price, it sure would be cheaper than the $7.50 per gallon folks are paying out there in the Bush. I sent an email to the company and asked them to check out the possibility of marketing the product in Alaska.

    Perhaps some of that money that’s going to be set aside for the greenhouse in Ugashik could be used to purchase a couple of these devices to heat the greenhouse during cold weather. Of course, any excess fuel might be distributed to residents to use for heating.

    Who knows, those cranky city folks who complain that Bush residents should move to Anchorage, might consider moving to the Bush if the cost of fuel was more reasonable. Wouldn’t that be a hoot! ;)

  36. Jim Says:


    You out there?

    I’ve been thinking about how darned expensive it is to fly to remote Alaska locations. I was surprised to learn about how much less expensive it is to operate a car off a rechargeable battery than it is with gas, so I wondered if anyone had come out with battery powered airplanes.

    Enter Electric Aircraft Corporation. They are slow and they only can fly a hundred miles or so. But perhaps this is the future?

    They say it costs 60 cents to go about a hundred miles (with cheap electricity). But if you multiplied electricity costs by 10 or 20 times, it would still cost about 5 or 10 bucks to fly a hundred miles.

    From Ugashik you might (or might not!) make it to King Salmon. Then you’d have to talk them into plugging you in for six hours (or 2 hours if they had 240) so you could go back home.

    The ElectraFlyer-X “Coming Soon” looks cool.

    Wonder how these things would work in winter.

    I want one:

  37. David Says:

    I was watching the History channel a few weeks ago, the show was about dams, the history, and the power they produce. Half way through the show, IT HIT ME. All dams are built in rivers. Why has there not been dams built in the oceans? This can and will work. I done my homework on this. I can not find anything on the web about this either.
    This is so simple! But out of my league to build.

  38. alaskapi Says:

    there are some cool experiments with turbines turned by ocean waves out there… they are trying to harness the same kind of kinetic energy a dam does with moving water…
    Look around and come back… haven’t seen any recent stuff about em but the work HAS started!
    Folks are going to run into dead ends and have to re-think their approaches and ideas. It’s going to take excitement like yours and a lot of hard work by a lot of people but dedication to the task will get us there…:-)
    Thanks for stopping by

  39. alaskapi Says:

    David- look at this and the comments which follow it…
    there links and ideas …

  40. David Says:

    Heys thanks, I’ll check into that. I just need to find someone or a group of people that into this kinda stuff and throw my idea at them. I am not looking for any money out of this, its just good for this planet.
    Using a dam in the ocean, gravity, and the tides can produce power.
    Water always equalizes itself,using this to the dams advantage.
    There are a lot of people that could take this and run with this idea that are much smarter than me.

  41. Jim Says:


    Thanks for your comments.

    You don’t need dams for tidal power. The British are among the experts:

    Places like Cook Inlet have huge potential; Turnagain Arm has some of the fastest tides in the world, but we’d need to protect our salmon and critters like endangered Beluga whales. In Alaska, ice can also be an issue.

    They are also talking about building a dam on the Susitna River. I’m not a big fan of that idea because the project would inundate 100 miles of inland river and it would be terribly expensive– somewhere between 10 and 20 thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child in Alaska. For that kind of money you could use an endowment and buy the electricity in perpetuity without having to build a dam!

    And not all Alaskans would get Susitna’s electricity. Alaska has been looking at Susitna for years– Jay Hammond appointed my dad as chair of the Alaska Power Authority, and they studied Susitna about 30 years ago.

    Alaska has about 1 percent of all the land in the world! But we have about one-ten-thousandth of the world’s population. It is hard to find energy projects, especially alternative energy projects, that are economical and appropriately scaled down to fit the small scope of our population.

    More than half of Alaskans live within 50 miles of Anchorage, but the rest are scattered all across that 1 percent of the world that is Alaska.

    There are tidal generators that could work here, and some could even work for small localities, but ice makes many of these options seasonal or not possible at all.

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