Roland Briggs: Alternative Energy


For those of you who are not aware I have lived in various villages in the Bristol Bay region most of my life.

I was lucky enough to be home schooled by a mom, Emorene (Randy)Briggs, who was a highly educated woman for her time. She was a Chemical Engineer educated in the Midwest and East coasts. She worked on the team that helped develop Styrene and over her lifetime did work with the Corp of Engineers here in Alaska, which she left as they would not let her out into the ‘field’ like they were the men at the timeJ and in our education system.

She had a great love of the fishery, people and education of all in our area. She made sure I was well prepped to head into Anchorage for high school and then onto Montana State University where I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was able to pursue other related areas while there.

Over my working life I have gotten to be involved with all sorts of ‘neat’ projects which you will most likely see me mention as it applies.

I am hoping that by posting occasionally on this area of interest, for at least me, I can spark more of an interest in and discussion by Alaskans who would most likely benefit from some changes in our energy structure.


Liquid Batteries

I think liquid batteries could have huge potential in Rural AK.

Recently, researchers from MIT have designed a new kind of battery that, unlike conventional batteries, is made of all-liquid active materials. Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, and his team have fabricated prototypes of the liquid battery, and have demonstrated that the materials can quickly absorb large amounts of electricity, as required for solar energy storage.

We can collect energy from wind and solar sources and store and run the village much like a large home. Our village energy needs at different times of the year can be as low as 50 KW to much higher in the summer or fall months. Of course this might well change IF we can find a economical source that allows for more competitive light industries.

VIVACE (Vortex Induced Vibrations Aquatic Clean Energy)

VIV is another promising technology…

A novel approach to extract energy from flowing water currents. It is unlike any other ocean energy or low-head hydropower concept. VIVACE is based on the extensively studied phenomenon of Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV), which was first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of “Aeolian Tones.” For decades, engineers have been trying to prevent VIV from damaging offshore equipment and structures. By maximizing and exploiting VIV rather than spoiling and preventing it, VIVACE takes this ‘problem’ and transforms it into a valuable resource for mankind.

Since we have so much “line cost” in Rural Alaska and yet water currents are always running, this new type of energy system might be of use at least in the summer time. Maybe even some places in AK in the winter time.  It could possibly even be used under the ice in places where there are slow moving currents.  I understand the Detroit River Project is a 15kw test system. Not sure when it is supposed to be up and running. I recently asked for an update on the status of it.  I will update as I find out.

~ Roland Briggs

11 Responses to “Roland Briggs: Alternative Energy”

  1. Jim Says:


    I’d like to consider using a modest solar set-up to power lithium batteries for 18 volt cordless tools at a remote location during summer months. Any suggestions about what I’d need, or would it be easier to just use a small generator?

  2. Rob Nixon Says:

    Hi Roland,

    Have you looked at geothermal energy options for your area? Looking at some of the maps, it appears that your area of the peninsula is shown to have potential for access to geothermal heat. There’s a map of Alaska here:
    If you could get some wells drilled down far enough to get to the heat zones, this might help with space heating, even if not hot enough for electric power generation.

    I also noticed that the University of Alaska has a program to evaluate a battery called VRB (Vanadium Redox Battery) for use with small-scale diesel power plants.

    They are also looking at geothermal resources:

    There are so many different areas of alternative energy being researched today that it’s hard to keep up with them. the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a program also.

  3. roland Says:


    you can use a couple solar panels to charge a 12v dc battery and then run a inverter 12dc to 120 ac to run your batery charger.

  4. roland Says:


    They are currently drilling some geothermal wells in the Naknek area for power.
    I am looking at doing low temp geothermal for heat in the house
    The VRB batteries are vary expensive $38000 for a 5kw system without the tanks I just got a price form Prudent Energy. Vary good tech but the price needs to come down.

    The Ultrabattery by Cisro in is probably a better option for small scale. I am trying to get pricing on home scale and village scale systems.

  5. elsie09 Says:

    Wow, wouldn’t it be great, Roland, if you could get a grant to test the newest and greatest alternative energy applications there at your home and have it coupled with additional energy sufficient to heat a year-round greenhouse to provide you and Vic with fresh produce? Good alternative energy PLUS fresh veggies, year-round?

    Are any of those big research guys/groups looking for real-life experienced rural people to send some grant money to for in-field testing? Or could you apply for grants to bring the new energy sources to Ugashik?

  6. Rob Nixon Says:

    A few years ago I read an article about a college professor in New Hampshire who built an interesting greenhouse. On the sun-facing side of his house, he built a greenhouse, with one wall common to his house. On winter days, there was generally enough sun to heat up the greenhouse.

    He built a system of air doors and small fans connecting the house to the greenhouse. With the greenhouse warm, he would open the air doors and turn on the fans to bring warm air into the house. At night, the doors would close when the greenhouse cooled down. He was able to get most of his winter heating (in a fairly cold climate) from the greenhouse.

    To that it might be possible to add a large thermal mass (basically a bunch of rocks or concrete) inside the greenhouse to absorb heat during the day and release it at night. I’ve seen houses built into hillsides that use this method. Very cheap and effective.

    This would depend on getting enough sunshine in winter to heat the greenhouse. I don’t know your sun hours situation there, but perhaps something of this kind might kill two birds with one stone. Grow some food in winter and heat the house.

  7. Rob Nixon Says:


    I found the story about the residential-attached greenhouse. The professor is David Mears from Rutgers. The greenhouse has a supplementary wood stove for heat when the sun is not enough, and water for a thermal mass. Here’s a link to the article.

  8. Roland Says:


    We work with a couple of different agencies on possible funding sources for renewable energy stuff. It is hard to get it as a single family dwelling, to get funding BUT we can do some of this for the processing company.
    There are a number of possible things we can try here so will keep updating as find out more. Vic takes care of the grants/funding part of our operation.
    Vic would sure like getting a greenhouse and having fresh veggies for us, and the crew, for more of the season.
    We keep working on all of it as we would like to see things get cheaper in the ‘bush’ to help foster businesses for residents.

  9. Aussie Blue Sky Says:

    There are all sorts of reference books for engineers free at You don’t need to join to use the search functions or download the .pdf documents.

  10. alaskapi Says:

    Have you seen|/bss/| ?


    This Act may be cited as the `Renewable Energy Environmental Research Act of 2009′.

    SEC. 2. PURPOSE.

    The purpose of this Act is to establish an integrated and comprehensive ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, and atmospheric research, prediction, and environmental information program to support renewable energy.”
    It’s in committee currently…

  11. Ed Larson Says:

    What’s up. Haven’t heard from you in oh……20 years!
    We had a house in Helena, MT with a solarium wiht 9 south facing windows about 44 inches by 70 inches. This was attached over a standard 4″ wood construction wall. We could routinely get the solarium up to 90 degrees and let that heat into the house during the day. Feb was not very good as we usually got more cloud cover.


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