Northwest Alaska Native Association (NANA) Regional Corporation - 2007 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Northwest Alaska Native Association (NANA) Regional Corporation
Location: Kotzebue, AK
Project Title: Geothermal Strategic Energy Plan and Energy Options Analysis
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-FG36-07GO17075
Project Amounts:
DOE: $149,988
Awardee: $46,840
Total: $196,828
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2007
End: December 2008

Summary

The Northwest Alaska Native Association (NANA) Regional Corporation (NRC) has committed to the long-term energy security of the NANA region by committing to the development of a strategic energy plan and analyzing the energy options available to tribal members and shareholders in the NANA region. One of the energy options available is a documented and known geothermal resource. According to the geothermal resource map of Alaska, there is a significant geothermal resource belt located in the NANA region. The communities of Deering, Buckland, Kotzebue, Shungnak, Ambler and Kobuk may have access to this resource. Local knowledge of geothermal pools in the vicinity of Deering, Buckland and Shungnak, coupled with exploratory wells in Kotzebue documenting hydrothermal resources at 160 degrees Fahrenheit indicate that there is strong geothermal power generation potential in the NANA region.

Recently UTC Power, in conjunction with Chena Hot Springs Resort, pilot tested the PowerPureCycleTM 200, a geothermal power generation technology that creates power at water temperatures as low as 160 degrees Fahrenheit. While not yet fully commercialized, the technology holds strong promise for remote, village-scale power generation such as that needed by the NANA region communities. Building upon UTC Power's experience and previous geothermal assessments undertaken in the region, NRC will ascertain the geothermal power generation potential for a remote, off-road, village-scale application. To promote energy security, NRC will be developing the NANA Geothermal Assessment Program (GAP) for the regional communities.

Project Description

Previous energy resource studies and energy planning activities have been conducted within the NANA region, but have been done either for specific targeted resources such as wind and/or have been completed for privately funded projects. The need to coordinate energy work and to consolidate and synthesize information is of paramount importance. Recent increases in the price of oil have had a direct impact on the cost of diesel-generated power, especially in Alaska’s sub-Arctic regions. The impacts felt within the NANA region are magnified if one considers the additional costs associated with the limited options for bulk fuel shipping, the poor economies of scale in power generation and distribution, and the possible reduction and/or elimination of Alaska's Power Cost Equalization program and the state-municipal sharing programs.

One of the energy options available to the NANA region is a documented and known geothermal resource. According to the geothermal resource map of Alaska, there is a significant geothermal resource belt located in the NANA region. The communities of Deering, Buckland, Kotzebue, Shungnak, Ambler, and Kobuk may have access to this resource. There is also local knowledge of geothermal pools in the vicinity of Deering, Buckland, and Shungnak, and exploratory wells in Kotzebue have documented hydrothermal resources at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. All of this indicates that there is strong geothermal power generation potential in the NANA region.

Objective

The NANA GAP will promote the Inupiat values system in its development, including "knowledge sharing" methodology, participatory planning and responsibility to the tribe. The high cost of energy in the NANA region is one of the leading threats to the long-term sustainability and well-being of the region. The goals and desired outcomes of the NANA GAP — such as development of renewable resources and self-determination through participatory planning — are closely linked to traditional Inupiat values. The NANA GAP will not only assist NRC in achieving its corporate mission and goals of serving its shareholders, it will also assist individual member communities in achieving the long-term goals of energy efficiency and reduced energy-related costs.

The goal of the NANA GAP is to ascertain the feasibility of geothermal power generation for communities in the NANA Region. The NANA GAP’s strategic objectives are as follows:

  1. Identify potential geothermal sites in the NANA Region.
  2. Undertake a geological, geochemistry and geophysical assessment of targeted sites for potential geothermal power generation.
  3. Ascertain the feasibility of geothermal power generation in the NANA Region.

Scope

The methods to be employed are industry-based standards germane to a geothermal assessment program. This will include undertaking a geological reconnaissance, a geochemical analysis of water samples and coordinating a geophysical assessment of at least one community if the geological assessment is deemed feasible. The geothermal assessment program data will be analyzed from a technical, financial and socioeconomic perspective;, modeling the best available technology with the geothermal data. The geothermal resource will be quantified as described below.

Geology/Geochemistry Site Assessment and Survey

The proposed geologic survey, though limited in scope because of time and cost considerations, is intended to: identify the local and regional rock types; detect signs of hydrothermal alteration; and measure the attitude, spacing, width and length of fault fractures and other tectonic features in the area. The information obtained should help determine if the three necessary geothermal parameters can identify a geothermal resource sufficient for power generation. In addition, water samples will be taken during the survey and site assessment. The abundance of a "geothermal suite" of elemental constituents and the ratios of selected elements in the thermal waters can be used (1) to estimate the temperature at which the waters were last in equilibrium with the rocks through which they circulated (geothermal-metric calculations), (2) to determine whether or not the waters were heated by volcanic emanations, and (3) the general provenance of the waters (rain or snow melt, juvenile ground waters or magmatic fluids). Samples will be sent to a qualified laboratory for analysis, geothermal-metric calculations and other chemical interpretation of their genesis and the potential for existence of elevated temperatures at depth.

Subregions 1-3 will be targeted for a geology/geochemistry site assessment and survey. Once the survey is completed, these communities will undergo a prioritization process to identify the community that has the most promising geothermal potential. The community that demonstrates the greatest potential for geothermal power generation will be selected and considered for a potential geophysical assessment. Kotzebue will not be considered for the geophysical assessment.

Geophysical Assessments

There are many geophysical techniques that can be used to explore for geothermal resources. They include: gravity surveys, ground and airborne magnetic studies, seismic surveys, soil gas surveys, and electrical resistivity studies. The latter include self-potential, dipole-dipole, magnetotelluric, audiomagnetotelluric and controlled-source audiomagnetotelluric studies. The suite of geophysical assessment options will be considered for a geophysical assessment program and an appropriate technology selected. The suite of geophysical options will be considered during the technical scoping section and a technology that meets budget, technical and quality parameters will be selected.

Power Optimization Modeling

Upon completion of the geological and geophysical assessment and, assuming the geothermal potential is deemed acceptable, the data will be analyzed using the HOMER Micropower Optimization Model and UTC Power’s modeling process.

Project Location

NRC is an Alaskan Native regional corporation, serving over 11,400 shareholders of the NANA region and its traditional communities. Located 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the Chukchi Sea, the NANA region also constitutes the boundaries of the Northwest Arctic Borough (NWAB). The NANA region population is estimated to be roughly 7600 people, of which 75% are of Inupiat Eskimo descent. Eleven individual communities are located within the NANA region and each is represented by an Indian Reorganization Act federally recognized tribal council. Subsistence activities such as hunting of caribou, moose and seals as well as fishing remains an integral part of the regional lifestyle.

Project Status

The project is complete. For details, see the final report.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2007 solicitation, "Feasibility of Renewable Energy Projects on Tribal Lands," and started September 2007. The November 2007, November 2008, and November 2009 project status reports provide more information.

For current project status or additional information, please contact the project contact.

Project Contact

Marie Greene, President
NANA Regional Corporation
100 Shore Avenue
Kotzebue, AK 99752
Phone: 907-442-3301
E-mail: marie.greene@nana.com

Stuart Parks, PE
NANA Pacific (Contractor/Consultant)
701 W. 8th Avenue, 4th Floor
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: 907-257-1735
E-mail: sparks@nanapacific.com