If you could take energy from the wind turbines in your community and heat up your house for little to no cost, would you try it?

If you could re-structure your local utility to make sure all customers are getting the best rate possible, would you do that?

If you could set up hundreds of solar panels in your community to give clean, renewable power to over half the homes, would you hesitate?

These are just examples of the kind of projects happening around Alaska, and around the nation in other tribal communities. Kawerak’s Energy Development Specialist Amanda Toerdal, along with Deilah Johnson, Environmental Coordinator and Tribal Council Member of the Village of Solomon, had the chance to learn about energy projects like these at the 2019 National Tribal Energy Summit, held September 24-26 in Washington D.C.

At the summit, Toerdal and Johnson listened to various workshops about programs and services offered by the Department of Energy – Office of Indian Energy. The theme for this year’s summit was “Self-Determination,” and time was spent talking about financing options, economic opportunities in energy, energy technologies, and how to encourage youth to become more involved in STEM Education and Energy Technology.

But, the most noteworthy sessions from the summit, according to Kawerak employee Amanda Toerdal, were the presentations on projects happening in communities that could be applicable for communities in the Bering Strait Region. Specifically, projects completed by Tanana Chiefs Conference community Hughes Village, the Native Village of Kongiganak in the Calista Region, projects in the NANA Region, and Metlakatla Indian Community.

  • Hughes Village in the Interior (TCC Region) installed a large community solar array using a Department of Energy Grant
  • Native Village of Kongiganak uses the excess wind from their turbines to heat peoples’ homes with thermal heating units
  • In the NANA region, the communities of Deering and Buckland are combining solar power and battery storage to get the ultimate benefits from renewable energy. In Kotzebue, they are using wind power and wind-to-heat applications.
  • In Metlakatla Indian Community, the tribal utility company was able to re-structure their rates to becoming a more cost-effective, sustainable entity that better utilizes their hydroelectric resources to benefit all customers.

“These are all projects that could be replicated for communities in our region,” says Toerdal. “Depending on the current energy profile, different projects make sense for different communities. Overall, it is always most cost-effective to begin with energy efficiency. By upgrading systems, infrastructure, appliances, and weatherizing homes – communities can see a nearly instant cost savings and reduction in energy use. However, when communities have done all the efficiency projects they can think of, and when it’s time to pursue bigger projects like renewable energy, we can look at other communities for energy projects that might make sense for our region, i.e. solar, wind-to-heat, utility management, heat recovery, etc…”

Why did Kawerak & a representative from our region attend this summit?

By attending local, state, and national events like the National Tribal Energy Summit, Kawerak’s Energy Program is working to increase internal capacity for providing technical assistance, as well as to increase the ability to share resources and provide training to build regional capacity in energy project development.

How was this educational opportunity funded?

Kawerak was awarded a Department of Energy – Office of Indian Energy Inter-Tribal Technical Assistance Grant. Through this program, Kawerak has the capacity to provide contractor services and detailed energy project assistance to communities.

Regional tribes, native corporations, and the cities that serve tribal members are encouraged to reach out for technical assistance regarding funding opportunities, development of energy projects, and hosting local educational workshops. Email energy@kawerak.orgfor more info!

Want to know more?
Check out our website: Kawerak.org/energy

-Find upcoming events, newsletters and the Energy Leadership Committee

2020 Bering Strait Regional Energy Summit
May 5-7 in Unalakleet