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CEO discusses Kodiak clean energy initiative

| Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Kodiak, Alaska — one of the only cities in the U.S. to generate almost 100 percent of its electric power from renewable resources — was celebrated for its environmental sustainability in a lecture Tuesday night in DeBartolo Hall.

The lecture was presented as part of the 12th ND Energy Week, an awareness week hosted by ND Energy and the Student Energy Board that promotes education and discussion about energy sustainability.

Darron Scott, CEO of the Kodiak Electric Association Inc. (KEA) said the city’s initiative to implement clean power began in the early 2000s. KEA is Kodiak’s locally owned and operated electric cooperative.

A primary reason KEA decided to switch to clean energy was due to the economic stability hydroelectric power and wind power offered, he said. The price of diesel fuel is highly volatile, he said, which can prove costly.

Kodiak’s local industries looking to keep the price of power low was a major proponent of the switch, he said.

“We were getting a lot of pressure [to transition] from seafood processors and from the government facilities,” he said.

Scott said the Kodiak community embraced the transition for its economic benefits. Because the electric grid on the island is isolated from other cities, the clean power initiative serves Kodiak exclusively.

“The benefit from [the wind turbines] comes directly to the people on the island,” he said.

Scott said while the project began as a largely independent, local initiative, he attributes part of its success to government funding.

“[While KEA was] getting ready to put the project in motion, the state [put] out a big grant for renewable energy projects,” he said.

Scott said Kodiak’s transition to sustainable energy was gradual. It began with the introduction of hydroelectric plants, then expanded to include three wind turbines. He said KEA was tentative about wind power at first because it is more challenging to integrate into a power grid.

“We didn’t have any real data on how the wind turbines reacted in the [electrical] system,” he said.

After gathering close data on its first three wind turbines, the company later doubled the amount to six, he said.

Today, KEA generates 82 percent of its electricity using hydroelectric power and 17 percent with wind power, Scott said.

Scott said since switching to renewable energy, Kodiak has seen immense economic benefits.

“Just the wind turbines alone have saved about 14 million gallons of diesel for our town,” he said.

The amount of diesel saved already amounts to more than the initial cost of the project, he added.

“We’re nine years in — it’s already paid for itself,” he said.

Scott said the project has also helped Kodiak make progress in combating pollution. KEA’s renewable energy has reduced the city’s carbon dioxide emission by 150,000 tons.

KEA has plans to expand its renewable energy initiative even further, Scott said.

“We’re moving forward with more dispatchable renewable power we can rely on, which is [hydropower],” he said.

Scott said he believes it is possible for the U.S. to make a full transition to renewable energy in the near future.

“This model — it should work,” he said. “ … The technology’s there.”

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About Mary Steurer

Mary is a Computer Science Engineering major pursuing a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. If her journalism career doesn't work out, her Plan B is to start a petting zoo.

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