While most of the world struggles with stabilizing renewables on the grid, a small island in Alaska has it all figured out.
Kodiak Island, a place where you’ll find a self-sufficient community encircled by expanse wilderness, is known for its wild bears, its fish processing industry, and — of most interest to those in the energy storage sector —f or its nearly 100 percent clean energy microgrid.
Wind, water and energy storage are the elements that have almost completely sunk fossil fuels, enabling the island’s affordable energy rates and miniscule carbon footprint: two achievements many grid operators strive to attain for their own networks.
What follows are observations on how renewables were stabilized on Kodiak’s isolated microgrid and the critical role of energy storage.
The Problem with Diesel: Unclean, Uneconomical
The Kodiak electric utility had a tough nut to crack. The utility relied on diesel fuel to generate power, and while diesel provided a constant source of energy, it was harmful to the environment and economically volatile.
In a PBS News Hour report about the Kodiak microgrid, a representative from the Kodiak Electric Association indicated that the varying cost of fuel had a varying effect on the cost electricity: If the price of diesel went up, that meant increased costs for everybody on the island, including residents and major users such as the fishing processors and the Coast Guard Air Station.
On a per kilowatt-hour (kWh) basis, diesel is one of the most expensive forms of energy. Kodiak’s high expenditures on fossil fuels was the catalyst for shifting focus toward the renewable energy sources available to the island. A plan was devised to harness renewables in a way that would be economically feasible. It looks like the utility was able to achieve a significantly more affordable rate using renewables in lieu of fossil fuels.
But renewable energy comes with its own complexity. Clean energy sources such as wind and rain are intermittent. The grid always needs power, but renewable sources don’t always supply it.
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