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Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments - 2008 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments
Location: Fort Yukon, AK
Project Title: Fort Yukon Wood Energy Program: Wood Boiler Deployment
Type of Application: Deployment
DOE Grant Number: DE-FG36-08GO18123
Project Amounts:
DOE: $1,200,000
Awardee: $1,200,000
Total: $2,400,000
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2008
End: June 2011

Project Description

Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (CATG) is a consortium of 10 Gwich'in and Koyukon Athabascan tribes located throughout the Yukon Flats. CATG and the Fort Yukon Gwitchyaa Zhee Native Corporation (GZ) have been working for years with partners on the development of an Integrated Biomass Energy Program for Fort Yukon. This integrated approach links sustainable forest management with an in-village for-profit wood harvest and delivery business to displace diesel energy with wood energy for heat and power. The program is based on the concept of ecological, economic and social sustainability with a goal of displacing as much diesel and fuel oil as is technically feasible and sustainable—essentially systematically converting a village to significant amounts of wood use.

A key to success of this biomass energy and economic development project of this magnitude in a remote village is to develop the wood supply infrastructure, which is the harvest system and wood yard, simultaneously with the infrastructure for conversion of biomass to heat. GZ has received funds through the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) and Denali Commission to cost share on the wood delivery infrastructure.

Funding through the DOE Tribal Energy Program will cost share specifically the engineering, purchase and installation of boilers to be placed at the major installations in Fort Yukon using fuel oil for heat. The goal is to displace up to 90% of the fuel oil used at the major selected installations.


The CATG created and works through the Fort Yukon Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) on regional resource issues. The purpose of the CATG, as described in the 1986 Constitution, is to conserve and protect tribal land and other resources; to encourage and support the exercise of tribal powers of self-government; to aid and support economic development; to promote the general welfare of each member tribe and its respective individual members; to preserve and maintain justice for all; and to otherwise exercise all powers granted to its member villages.

A primary objective within the regional Yukon Flats Resource Conservation & Development Plan as revised in 2001 is to minimize energy and utility costs in the Yukon Flats through the exploration and utilization of opportunities for Sustainable Energy Development (including biomass, solar, natural gas, wind and small-scale hydro) as well as in regional bulk-fuel purchase (YF RC&D Area Plan 2001, Community Development Objective #1). In an effort to effectively and efficiently address this objective, the CATG board identified the development of an Inter-Tribal Energy Plan as a high priority in the Yukon Flats. The purpose of a Yukon Flats Inter-Tribal Energy Plan is to empower Yukon Flats Tribes and native corporations to work collaboratively to satisfy community energy needs while reinvesting in communities, promoting economic development and ensuring environmental integrity. This plan is still under development through the CATG Resource Department and a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) General Assistance Program.

Several funding sources have supported the development of the program to date. Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) funding helped AVI and PLARC develop the conceptual design of an integrated biomass program as described above. Funding from Alaska Department of Natural Resources' Forestry Department supported development of a Forest Stewardship Plan, which demonstrated the potential of local forests to supply sustainable biomass from GZ lands. A Rural Business Enterprise Grant is supporting the refinement of a business model, development of the harvest equipment components, development of transportation plans for winter and summer safe delivery of biomass to the village, and development of several model culturally relevant legal contracts for transfer of wood through the business model entities.

A current DOE Tribal Program Feasibility Grant (FY 2007) has allowed the completion of the team to model different boiler types and installations for the villages of the CATG region of Yukon Flats, and electrical load data have been collected. An initial feasibility analysis has been conducted, with one potential solution described. More tradeoff analysis between stick fired boilers placed at individual buildings and a district heating scenario (highlighted here) will be conducted prior to final selection of an optimal boiler system.

The initial goal of the heating project is to replace up to 90% of the fuel oil used at the school and gym, the new clinic and University of Alaska building, and the Voc Ed building.

Project Objectives

The purpose of this project is to support the preconstruction tasks and construction installation of wood boilers at the CATG clinic as part of an overall program to create a for-profit wood energy utility in Fort Yukon. This deployment project will support the final design of the boiler array; bidding, purchase, and transport of boilers; installation; technical support; and engineering. Upon determination of the final optimum boiler configuration an engineering design will be commissioned. This design will be bid among potential boiler dealers for set up in containers and delivery to Fort Yukon.


The project will occur in two phases, preconstruction and construction. Only Phase 1 is currently approved as part of this agreement. The following tasks will be completed for Phase 1, Preconstruction:

  1. Boiler Schematic Design & Oversight —An initial level 2 feasibility study was conducted by an engineering consultant to determine a conceptual design for district heating and heating of key other commercial buildings. This feasibility determined that chip systems were the best all-around approach. The next step is to develop a specific schematic design by a district heating engineering specialist and develop specific parameters for a final engineered design-build construction-bid process. Funds from both DOE and AEA will be used to complete this task.

  2. Preliminary Design—Preliminary design will be completed during Phase 1 for the three planned heating systems, including the CATG clinic, the downtown district heat system and boilers for the Vo Tech campus. An Alaska-based engineering firm with rural Alaska design and build experience will be selected. Funds from both DOE and AEA will be used to complete this task.

  3. Boiler Permitting—Boiler permitting at the midscale 2–8 mBTU/h has essentially not been done in rural interior Alaska. An experienced biomass boiler engineer will complete the process in conjunction with the state of Alaska. Funds from AEA will be used to complete this task.

  4. Landowner Agreements and Donations—The project is anticipating the donation of land for a wood yard, a building and land from the Fort Yukon School District and an old quanson hut for a shop and wood chip storage from the federal government. Siting of boilers on various ownerships and piping will require easements. This task will negotiate, create and finalize all necessary agreements. Funds from AEA will be used to complete this task.

  5. Environmental Analysis—Both AEA and DOE require a complete analysis on the potential positive and negative environmental impacts. An analysis following the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Environmental Assessment (EA) process will be prepared on boiler installations and a general analysis on forest management impacts. Funds from AEA will be used to complete this task.

  6. Power Sales Agreements—Each heating customer in the heating district will require a BTU purchase agreement from the newly formed heat utility. Under this task, the CATG will develop a purchase price for BTUs that reflect the cost of production plus operations, maintenance, and profit. Long-term agreements will be developed, probably tied to the cost of fuel oil with escalation and reductions clauses. Funds from AEA will be used to complete this task.

The following tasks will be completed for Phase 2, Construction, once the EA is completed and approved:

  1. Project Management, Reporting and Technical Support—The project manager will coordinate the entire project among the various funding agencies, local organizations and contractors. He will be responsible for report writing to AEA and DOE Tribal Energy. Contractor will also give technical support on the development of a forestry program at CATG as well as support the initiation of the Wood Energy Utility and wood harvest company under GZ Corporation. This task is funded by both AEA and CATG.

  2. Construction Management—Depending on how construction bidding is organized, this task will be performed by the design-build company or by a separate contractor that will be in charge of all aspects of project construction and installation. This task is funded by both AEA and CATG.

  3. Final Design —A design-build document that will complete the design phase, this will be the plan that the three planned heating systems will be built from, including the CATG Clinic, the downtown district heat system and boilers for the Vo Tech Campus. An Alaska-based engineering firm with rural Alaska design and build experience will be selected. Funds from both DOE and AEA will be used to complete this task.

  4. Boiler Purchase, Installation and Construction—This task will purchase, deliver, and install boilers piping, wood storage and handling equipment and include building construction based on the final design. It is anticipated that a boiler will be installed at the CATG clinic, the Vocational Ed campus and the downtown district heat system. This task is funded by both AEA and CATG. DOE funds will be used to purchase the boiler at the CATG clinic, and thus CATG will be the actual owner of the boiler. The local wood utility will contract with CATG to fuel and operate the boiler.

Project Location

The CATG is a consortium of 10 Gwich'in and Koyukon Athabascan tribes located throughout the Yukon Flats. Arctic Village, Beaver, Birch Creek, Canyon Village, Chalkyitsik, Circle, Fort Yukon, Rampart, Stevens Village and Venetie are the remote villages comprising CATG. The Yukon River and its tributaries, including the Porcupine, Chandalar, Birch Creek and Black Rivers, tie the people of the Yukon Flats villages together. Located deep in the interior of Alaska, the Yukon Flats is transected by the Arctic Circle. Stretching from the White Mountains in the south to the Brooks Range in the north, the Yukon Flats encompasses an area of approximately 55,000 miles (about the size of Wisconsin). The winters are long and harsh, and the summers are short but warm. Approximately 1,700 people inhabit this subarctic landscape in isolated communities without roads or road access.

Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in Tribal Government, formerly known as "The Native Village of Fort Yukon," serves the Gwich'in people of Fort Yukon, Alaska. Fort Yukon is located on the north bank of the Yukon River at its junction with the Porcupine River, about 145 nautical miles (269 km) northeast of Fairbanks.

Project Status

This project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2008 funding opportunity announcement, "Renewable Energy Deployment in Alaska Native Villages," awarded September 2008 and started September 2010.

The November 2008, November 2009, October 2010, November 2011, October 2012, March 2014, and May 2015 project status reports provide more information.

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

Project Contact

Ben Stevens
P.O. Box 283
Fort Yukon, AK 99740

Bill Wall
Private Lands and Resource Consulting
198 Montana Dr.
PO Box 988
Seeley Lake, MT 59868