Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government - 2003 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Venetie Tribal Government, Native Village of
Location: Northeast Alaska
Project Title: Powering Remote Northern Villages with the Midnight Sun
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-FC36-03GO13126
Project Amounts:
DOE: $222,234
Awardee: $41,453
Total: $263,687
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2003
End: February 2006

Summary

The villages of Venetie and Arctic, located above the Arctic Circle in northeast Alaska along the Chandalar River and just southeast of the Brooks Range, will study the feasibility of powering the villages using renewable solar energy during the season of the midnight sun. The solar electric (photovoltaic) system will replace diesel generator power for most of the summertime, yielding great economic, environmental, and social benefits.

Project Description

The Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government will conduct a feasibility study for powering of an entire village during the season of the midnight sun, using renewable solar energy. The renewable system will allow the diesel generators to be turned completely off for most of the summertime, yielding great economic, environmental, and social benefits. The system would operate year round. While there would be no solar energy input during the long night of December and January, during the months that the sun does not shine, the system's energy storage component would continue to provide benefits by saving fuel, due to more steady generator operation and by providing back-up power during generator outages.

Objective

The immediate objective of this project is to determine a cost-effective means for reducing the economic burdens and the environmental risks and harm from importing diesel fuel into the villages. The long-term objectives are to develop new skills among our young people and a return toward a subsistence way of life. The approach to meet these objectives will be to use energy conservation to reduce electricity and heating fuel use, and to use renewable energy to meet as much of the village's remaining electrical and thermal energy needs as possible.

The objectives of this feasibility study are to:

  1. Assess current village energy use and forecast future use to know where the village stands and where they're headed.

  2. Determine ways to improve energy efficiency in the village immediately and to start saving fuel as soon as possible.

  3. Evaluate the existing PV system performance and identify and resolve power quality problems that limit present and future renewable system performance.

  4. Determine the best possible combination of energy conservation and renewable energy and energy storage systems to turn off the diesel generators for weeks in the summertime and to turn them down throughout the year while meeting newly-reduced energy needs.

  5. Accomplish the objectives in such a way that local people can participate in and learn from the project and that our young people may come to have new job skills.

Scope

The purpose of the feasibility study is to conduct a village-level energy assessment and then determine a combination of energy conservation measures and renewable energy systems that together would significantly reduce diesel fuel consumption. The assessment would examine energy needs so energy conservation measures could be identified to help reduce those needs. By reducing energy needs up front a smaller renewable energy system to power the village will be needed. The assessment would develop profiles of the village's current and future energy needs based on historic trends. Then the cost-effective size of a renewable energy system and energy storage system can be determined for the village. With that information, the economic, environmental, and cultural benefits could be determined. Finally, the village-level energy assessment will help to better plan our energy future no matter how much renewable energy is used.

The comprehensive approach to reducing demand and improving supply options will examine the following issues:

  • Village load assessments
  • Power quality improvements
  • Renewable resource assessments
  • Geothermal/permafrost options for refrigerated food storage in the summer
  • Energy conservation
  • Energy storage
  • Staff training and development and public outreach
  • Developing replicable models for other communities

Background

Both the villages of Venetie and Arctic Village are administered under the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government (NVVTG) and share the 1.8 million acre Venetie Indian Reserve. Our commitment to renewable energy and conservation is well demonstrated by the fact that we have aggressively pursued energy initiatives and currently have 4.6 kW of installed solar photovoltaic capacity among the two villages and will be installing another 2.2 kW PV dual-axis tracking system with an above-ground gabion foundation this summer. We have custom-designed these systems to take advantage of the long summer days and the increased aerial rotation of the sun in high latitude applications while being careful not to disturb our permafrost with a unique system foundation. See the worlds Northern most Tribally-owned solar tracker, in Venetie, Alaska, below.

Photo of two men in front of a Solar Pannel

Project Location

The villages of Venetie and Arctic Village are located over 100 miles above the Arctic Circle in northeast Alaska along the Chandalar River and just southeast of the Brooks Range, 200 miles from the nearest road. All industrial commodities must be flown in to the communities at tremendous cost. A gallon of gasoline costs $5 and conventional diesel generated electricity costs over $0.50/kWh. Diesel fuel and emissions are polluting our air and water, draining our local economy, and making us dependent on outside sources for basic necessities. Our elders have instructed us to become more self-reliant and use our own locally available resources to meet our energy needs.

Both of these communities are administered under the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government (NVVTG) and share the 1.8 million acre Venetie Indian Reserve.

Project Status

This project is complete. For details, see the final report (PDF 1.1 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's FY2003 solicitation, "Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands," and started September 2003. For more information, see the project status reports from November 2003 (PDF 1.4 MB), October 2004 (PDF 2.3 MB) and October 2005 (PDF 886 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

For additional information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Lance Whitwell
Tribal Energy Programs Manager
Native Village of Venetie
P.O. Box 81080
Venetie, AK 99781
Telephone: (907) 849-8165
Facsimile: (907) 849-8097
Email: lancewhitwell_nvvtg@hotmail.com

Brian Hirsch
Technical Consultant
Executive Director, Earth Energy Systems, Ltd
P.O. Box 15177
Homer, AK 99603
Telephone: (907) 235-6842
Facsimile: (907) 235-3442
Email: info@earthsys.org