Renewable Energy Technology Incentives in Alaska
Located in a region prone to extremes of cold and with energy prices on the rise, there are plenty of reasons why Alaska should want to engage with renewable energy. It is currently leading the way in wave power development and it produces 90% of the US energy from river power. There are plenty of other natural resources that help Alaska push the boundaries when it comes to renewable energy including wind as well as geothermal – a result of the large number of hot springs and volcanoes in the area.
While it’s northern location makes Alaska less profitable for solar energy, much emphasis has been put on biomass, geothermal, wind and tidal power. Compared to other states, the lack of energy infrastructure is often seen as a positive thing and enables communities to make their own choices and build a more sustainable local energy provision. Consequently, Alaska’s range of renewable energy incentives are important for promoting new technologies across the state.
Solar PV Incentives in Alaska
Despite the challenges there is real engagement with solar in Alaska to produce valuable energy for many communities. Access to resources such as the Renewable Energy Grant Program provides a range of incentives for solar thermal and solar pv for businesses and is administered by the Alaska Energy Authority. Installations also benefit from the Federal Tax Rebate making the installation of solar a viable option even for an area where levels of sun are low in the winter. The Golden Valley Electric Association - Sustainable Natural Alternative Power or SNAP program pays those who install solar PV for the amount of electricity they produce if they connect to the grid.
Net metering was introduced for renewable technologies in 2010 meaning that utility companies were duty bound to pay for small energy production by businesses and homes.
Solar PV Case Study in Alaska
Many of the solar PV installations in Alaska are community based and designed to provide more wide ranging benefits rather than smaller residential installations. A 5 kW system installed could cost in the region of $22,500 in Alaska and with the Federal Tax Rebate that could be brought down to $15,750. Savings on utility bills could be as much as $850 meaning a ROI within 15 years. As far as cooperative community efforts are concerned, a 10 kW system was installed in Kaltag which saved residents $1,700 on their diesel fuel bills in the first year.
Solar Thermal Incentives in Alaska
Solar thermal also benefits from the Renewable Energy Grant Program for businesses and public owned organisations as well as the SNAP program. Installation prices for solar thermal start at around $10,000 but a lot will depend on the size and scope of the work that needs to be undertaken. The SNAP program has been used to help fund the installation of solar thermal at the Denali Education Center to provide hot water saving them some $7,000 each year.
Small Hydro Incentives in Alaska
Hydro provides the largest amount of renewable energy for Alaskan residents, some 20% of the output, and is an integral part of the energy mix. The state has a wide range of hydro from large 30 MW capacity down to smaller micro systems that produce around 100 kW. Alaska is home to a number of ‘run of the river’ micro hydro installations that alter the course of a river bed to drive turbines and supply electricity to local communities. US grants under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) are available up to a maximum of 25% of the cost of the installation for both hydro and other renewable energy initiatives.
Geothermal Incentives in Alaska
Alaska benefits from its location in the Belt of Fire which means it can take advantage of large scale geothermal heating. The major problem is the remote location of some of these areas but advances are being made in taking advantage of geothermal direct heat for local communities which could well see a large reduction in utility bills as new technology is developed. Ground source heat pumps are a viable option for many businesses and can benefit from the state Renewable Energy Fund.
Biomass Incentives in Alaska
Biomass is a growth industry in Alaska and 14 larger scale projects have been implemented in the last couple of years. For Alaskan residents and businesses switching to wood pellet burning can almost half the costs compared to oil heating that is more prevalent in the state. There needs to be more incentives provided for both residential and business concerns if Alaskans are going to adopt this technology in larger numbers. The Alternative Energy Conservation Loan Fund is available for commercial premises up to a value of $500,000 depending on the level of installation required.
Wind Power Incentives in Alaska
Wind power requires a large investment for anyone looking to install a turbine and much of the incentive is aimed at commercial development through the Renewable Energy Fund. Installations also benefit from a number of US wide initiatives such as the Federal Tax Rebate and the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit which are aimed at smaller, micro turbines that may be used for purposes such as agriculture.
Low Income Homes
With so many small communities in remote areas, Alaska provides support for renewable and energy saving initiatives through the Home Energy Rebate that can cover up to $10,000 in home improvements. Borrowers can also opt to take out a low interest loan administered through Alaska USA Federal Credit Union up to a maximum of $30,000.
Alaska has always been at the forefront of renewable technologies, driven perhaps by the large number of remote communities that depend on their own energy production. A mix of state, local and countrywide incentives are available for both business and residential installations.