Alaskan Archipelago Offers Example of Effective Microgrid Integration for Sustainable Energy Resource Generation

Alaskan Archipelago Offers Example of Effective Microgrid Integration for Sustainable Energy Resource Generation

In efforts to stabilize energy use amidst growing demands and unpredictable commodity prices and supplies, microgrids can effectively provide solutions between various energy sources.

There are a growing number of success cases for the integration of microgrids, from recent endeavors in Japan to Illinois. To help build these models everywhere, Team Gemini offers industry-leading technology options for communities and resource-intensive businesses. The aim is to support a modern utilities infrastructure and Triple Bottom Line. Team Gemini developments cover needed resources like electricity, thermal energy, water, waste remediation, and more.

Efficiently dealing with resource supply and demand directly impacts utility costs, resource availability, and more. Energy storage is increasingly becoming a standard option to add to utility management. The archipelago of Kodiak, Alaska, has had to meet a variety of needs by its local industrial businesses and residents. Their solutions came by way of a combination of sustainable infrastructure developments.

Kodiak has long gotten most of its electricity from a hydro dam. But a decade ago, as demand grew, it was relying more and more on diesel generators. The cost of diesel was high and unpredictable, a problem for businesses trying to forecast their expenses.

In 2007, the utility set a goal of 95 percent renewable power. It built a handful of wind turbines, plus a bank of batteries to supplement the community’s hydro power. That worked for a while. But then came a new challenge: the Kodiak port wanted to replace its old diesel-powered crane with a giant electric one.

But the utility looked around for a solution, and it found a European company, ABB, that offered a new kind of energy storage: flywheels.

Here’s how it works: When there’s excess power on the grid, it spins the flywheel. The flywheel stores that energy as motion, and then pumps it back out the second a big surge is needed. When the crane isn’t operating, the flywheels respond to fluctuations in wind power, working with the batteries to stabilize the grid. Kodiak is one of the first places in the world to use flywheels this way.

Altogether, Kodiak’s microgrid operates like an orchestra, each piece responding millisecond by millisecond. The wind drops suddenly and the flywheel kicks on. As the flywheel slows, the batteries step in. And behind it all, the hydro ramps up. And Kodiak has managed to do all this while keeping rates stable. In fact, the price of electricity in Kodiak has dropped slightly since 2000.

Richcreek says this is the future.

“The solutions are out there,” she says. “They’re outside the box. They may be different. But the industry is changing.”

These practical solutions demonstrate benefits of modernizing grid infrastructure, which are applicable on smaller and larger scales.

Specific to Team Gemini’s offerings in supplying these resources, team members like 2G Energy (combined heat and power), Viessmann (thermal energy and more), ABB (microgrids and resource management and monitoring), and A3 (wastewater treatment and conservation) contribute effective solutions. Beyond these, sustainable agriculture also comes into play, as food resources are critical for survival. These companies, among others, provide outstanding technology and service options to fulfill a variety of energy efficiency needs for countless industries.

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