Small, remote Alaskan villages that are alienated from large power sources increasingly rely on microgrids as a practical energy solution. According to a blog post from Matt Erskine, deputy assistant secretary of the Economic Development Administration, Alaska stands as a leading pioneer in microgrid technology.
“Alaska is providing the blueprint for the future of new and emerging technologies in rural communities that build on the state’s strengths and natural assets to solve environmental challenges, protect the environment, and simultaneously support businesses and grow the economy,” Erskine said.
Microgrids are small power grids that operate separately from an interconnected electrical grid. They share no connection to a larger transmission system. These grids can serve as primary power sources for remote communities that may be far removed from major roads and long-distance electric lines. According to the blog post, which can be found on the U.S. Department of Commerce website, many rural Alaskan villages are finding microgrids an inexpensive energy solution.
The Alaska Center for Energy and Power seeks to improve the effectiveness of microgrids and eventually introduce their technology to other states. Along with ACEP, government funds buoy efforts to develop and expand the operation of microgrids. Last year, the EDA awarded ACEP with a grant to start the Alaska Center for Microgrid Technologies Commercialization, which provides technical and business assistance needed to commercialize the technology involved in microgrid systems.
The EDA’s work with ACEP reflects Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s larger “Open for Business” agenda, which involves supporting local development strategies in trade, investment, innovation, and data. Erskine, who recently traveled to Alaska, said that these areas represent the department’s focus on economic growth and job creation. He stated that another goal is to equip communities with information and products that help them adapt to environmental changes.
“Among our policy priorities in this space is developing the next generation of climate observing systems, developing stronger disaster resilience standards for buildings and infrastructure, and maintaining world-leader weather forecasting capabilities,” Erskine said.