What renewable energy sources will work best for Alaska?

By Robert Seitz

Updated: 10 minutes ago Published: 10 minutes ago

power, electricity, power line, power lines

As Alaska addresses the application of renewable energy, here is some of what I have learned about electric vehicle charging station design, the application of micro-nuclear reactors, battery energy storage systems, hydroelectric power, and others. I have advocated that long-term energy storage is necessary to ensure the success of renewable resources such as solar and wind power. I continue that support even stronger with everything I’ve learned in recent months.

Microreactors can be considered as long-term energy storage. Microreactors range in size from 1 MW to 10 MW. They generally have a specified life of up to 10 years, based on operation at 100% of their rated capacity. Whether solar, wind, battery storage and other renewable sources are applied effectively; the useful life of the microreactor can be extended up to 40 years. So communities can start building their renewable resources now, in preparation for when the microreactors become available.

For mines and other large operations, multiple microreactors can be installed to provide a higher base power capacity, such as 40 MW. The number of renewable energy sources that can be installed to produce power for the facility will determine the long life of the microreactors on site. Australia has already started installing solar resources at its mines. So microreactors get my vote as an acceptable means of long-term energy storage, which will greatly enhance microgrid formation.

For mines to be successful without building power lines or gas lines to provide power to the site, the equipment (fixed and rolling) at the mine must be powered by electrical power. This will require sizing the facility’s power system for the charging stations needed to keep the equipment operating at the proper level to maintain continuous production.

The state of electric vehicles (EVs) is a bit more mixed. Political pressure has pushed EV production out of the normal processes that free markets and innovators would normally follow, so there are necessary developments that have not yet been made, technological problems that have yet to be overcome, and durability issues that have yet to be realized. have been allowed. be addressed and resolved with sufficient time and experience. Charging times at commercial charging stations are not as short as the normal filling time for vehicles at service stations. There are still issues with electric vehicle batteries catching fire, but we had to overcome gas tanks catching fire with rear-end collisions. Electric vehicles would do much better if they were allowed to mature at a more natural rate and allow gasoline and diesel vehicles to continue to run without restrictions to ensure transportation in all conditions, rain or shine, snow and cold, hills or level ground.

Utilities are still reluctant to answer questions about how long before they have criteria for battery charging stations, or even what the rates might be, as it’s unclear when, how many, or what size chargers. they can be installed. The impact on power companies could be substantial. There is an immediate solution. If the charging stations are installed in facilities that include integrated power sources and enough energy storage to be self-sufficient (i.e., a microgrid), they can operate independently of the utility until the utility finally satisfies their requirements. needs.

I’ve been pursuing hydrogen since the 1980s, all the while thinking that at any moment it would become a viable method of energy storage available for use in remote Alaska. That is not the case. In addition to the energy to power the electrolyzers to separate hydrogen from oxygen in the water, additional energy is required to produce deionized water for input to the electrolyzers. Then there’s the energy needed to pump it from the water source to the deionizer, and then the energy needed to compress the hydrogen for storage or injection into processes to make ammonia or methanol. When considering hydrogen electrolyser sites, we must be sure that there is an adequate source of water. The Department of Energy has targeted large regional centers for the production of hydrogen for pipeline insertion. I’m more interested in small-scale hydrogen production that can be used in our remote communities as long-term energy storage to get us through the winters.

There is still a lot of planning to be done to determine which technologies are most viable and how to incorporate them into electric power systems as we transition to greener solutions. In the meantime, we must recognize that these technological advances will take years, so we must ensure that we have an adequate supply of low-cost fossil fuel to provide the economy and energy needed to build the future.

Robert Seitz, P.E. he is a lifelong electrical engineer and Alaskan.

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