Renewable Energy Can Change Where We Live and Where We Go

by Henry Kaplan | May 13, 2014 |


(The City of Atka, Alaska, on Atka Island, population 61. By Thester11 [Own work] [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Yakutat, Alaska gets their energy from far away, shipping in diesel to run the town’s generators, but they’re hoping to change that. Back in April, we wrote about their plan to test out wave energy turbines. They’re moving forward with their environmental and engineering studies, getting ready to deploy a test project next year.

Scientific American explains why Yakutat is on the cutting edge of renewable energy:

Yakutat's 1.5-megawatt electrical system is completely reliant on diesel fuel, which is delivered four times per year at a price of $4.50 per gallon. In recent years, the community's electricity prices have been consistently between 50 and 60 cents per kilowatt-hour. In February, according to the Department of Energy, the average residential user in the United States paid less than 12 cents per kWh.

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Yakutat is now in line to become home to one of the first remote marine energy projects in the United States, in partnership with Resolute Marine Energy. According to Bill Staby, founder and CEO of the Boston-based company, Resolute's novel wave energy converters are expected to cut Yakutat’s electricity costs in half.

Novel sources of power are drawn to remote areas, where connecting to wider power grids is impractical. In Alaska, there are nearly 200 towns like this. You can see similar forces at work in island communities, where residents also have been relying on diesel generators.

Improving these renewable energy techniques won’t just benefit these existing towns. These technologies could change the way our communities grow, opening up new areas for development. After all, when a community can make its own power locally, it won’t need to worry about outside fuel sources.

Smaller-scale renewable energy sources like this have the potential to change human geography. That’s one of the reasons the military is so interested in renewable energy. On top of reducing the military’s reliance on imported fuels, renewable energy can give the military greater flexibility in where they go. If they find a way to make their own fuel wherever they are, that’s one less supply chain they need to protect.

It’s easy to forget, but improving these technologies won’t just help our cities and towns as they are today – it will help us live and work in places that were closed to us before.

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