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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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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