Second Largest Island in U.S. Goes 100% Renewable
As most Alaskans can attest, energy in The Last Frontier is expensive. The average residential electricity rate of more than 18 cents per kWh is a full 50 percent higher than the national average, ranking among the highest in the country. That’s in part because outside the 50 hydro plants throughout the state, most of Alaska’s rural communities rely on imported diesel for their electricity. But the folks of Kodiak Island (pop. 15,000) in southern Alaska—powered almost 100 percent with renewable energy—have a different story to tell.
Although Kodiak Island, the second-largest island in the U.S., relied on hydropower for 80 percent of the electricity production, it was also burning 2.8 million gallons of diesel per year, at an annual cost of $7 million. In the face of climate change and high electricity costs, the board and managers at Kodiak Electric Association (KEA) set a goal of producing 95 percent of the community’s electrical needs with renewable energy by 2020. They actually arrived there well ahead of time, and are now 99.7 percent renewably powered by wind and hydro.
Making the transition
The State of Alaska has a renewable energy fund created in 2008 by the Alaska Energy Authority to help finance renewable energy projects and reduce and stabilize the cost of energy. KEA received $16 million in grant money through the fund and $39.6 million through clean renewable energy bonds (CREBs). The CREB funds gave KEA a near-zero-interest loan for the project.
The first step was to purchase three General Electric 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbines. The turbines were installed in 2009, which was challenging according to Kodiak Electric Association CEO Darron Scott. “There was not a lot of information back then on how to keep the grid frequency and voltage steady with an influx of variable wind power,” Scott told Rocky Mountain Institute. “It was uncharted territory.” But after a grid integration study, which assessed the technical and economic impacts on the grid, the first three wind turbines were installed.
Upgraded hydro for grid stability
A second modeling study was performed with real data from the first phase, and a second phase of three more wind turbines was proposed. But before installing the second phase of wind turbines, KEA wanted to upgrade the existing hydropower system. KEA felt that to ensure grid stability, the amount of wind power being put onto the grid had reached its maximum. The 20-MW, two-turbine Terror Lake hydroelectric plant was built in 1984, and forward-thinking engineers left an empty bay for a third turbine in case Kodiak’s load grew. In 2011, Kodiak’s peak load grew to more than 26 MW, and the increased load, along with a desire to rely on more renewables, led to the installation of a third 10-MW turbine.
Besides covering peak loads, this turbine provided the necessary capacity and enhanced grid stability to allow more variable renewable power, like the three new proposed wind turbines, to come online. The new turbine also provided system redundancy, as the 30-year-old turbines require maintenance, which can now be done during low load seasons without switching to diesel.
A role for storage
For smaller electricity grids with quickly fluctuating demand and variable renewable energy inputs, a way to store the energy can be a great asset. In 2012, the three additional 1.5-MW wind turbines were installed, along with 3 MW of battery storage. The battery storage systems provide 30–90 seconds of bridging power when the wind output decreases, in order to ramp up the hydro system. Now, the Kodiak port wants to install a new 2-MW crane, potentially causing destabilizing power fluctuations leading to undesirable cycle of the batteries and the potential for consumption of more diesel to provide spinning reserve. Instead, KEA plans to add an additional flywheel energy storage system in about two or three months that will help compensate for the peaking crane loads. The PowerStore flywheel units from ABB will provide voltage and frequency support, will help manage the variable wind power and will mean fewer cycles through the batteries, extending the life of the battery systems.
The financial rewards of the project have been great. According to Scott, the community is saving. Electricity rates have gone down, and are now 2.5 percent lower than in 2001. “The stable electricity rates have also brought in more construction, expanded the fishing industry, and brought in more jobs and tax revenue,” Scott told RMI. And, at least one seafood company is capitalizing on the renewable energy to promote its sustainable salmon, as its salmon production plant is powered by wind energy.
The State of Alaska has a goal of reaching 50 percent renewable energy by 2025. Kodiak Island is providing a great example of how to reach and even go beyond that goal. “There are many communities in Alaska with significant microgrid achievement,” George Roe, research professor with the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, told RMI, “and there is local, national and global potential for building on Alaskan hard-won experience such as that in Kodiak.” In fact, the Alaska Energy Authority and KEA won the 2014 State Leadership in Clean Energy Award for their renewable energy programs.
“Both the Alaska Energy Authority and the Kodiak Electric Association are putting into practice five principles that I believe are in our national interest,” said Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski in a congratulatory speech. “And those are to make energy abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and secure.” Kodiak went beyond its reliance on hydropower, adding different renewable resources and storage, making its electrical system more reliable and secure and a model for other communities looking to add variable renewable sources to their grid.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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