Here in Alaska, renewable energy is fairly common, especially in the more remote or rural areas. Most small towns and cities are either powered by diesel generators, wind turbines, or hydroelectric. Where I live we’re lucky to be supplied by hydroelectric facilities. I work for Petersburg Municipal Power and Light the electric utility in Petersburg, and we receive most of our electricity from a hydroelectric dam about 45 miles away located in a remote mountain lake called Tyee. We have submarine cables that connect island to island in a chain. Tyee sends it’s electricity to the island town of Wrangell and then it continues along to Mitkof Island where I live (Town of Petersburg). The city of Ketchikan is also connected to Tyee Lake Dam. Petersburg has its own hydroelectric facility located on Crystal Mountain. I help maintain the facility and operate the hydro and backup diesel generators in emergencies and during maintenance periods. Kupreanof the island across from us has no permanent power, so all the homes there use a combination of solar, wind, and gas generators for their electric needs.
Wind Turbines are becoming an effective addition to energy generation for remote towns, and solar is definitely an option for half the year. Geothermal is another option that is being looked at in many locations around the state.
As far as alternative energy for Alaska growers, it’s definitely an option to reduce operating costs and reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. We get very long periods of sunlight half the year and very limited daylight the rest of the year, so solar is a seasonal option. Outdoor grows, high tunnels, or greenhouses are better options as they are more cost effective. The return on investment for solar can be expensive and take longer to recover investment costs than the lower 48 because of the seasonal generation.
Electric rates can be very expensive in remote areas that still generate using fossil fuels. In fact I wouldn’t recommend cultivation facilities to operate in these places as the high cost per kwh along with frequent power outages would make it very difficult to be sustainable and competitive.
Southeast Alaska with all its rain and mountain lakes is energy rich, and has comparable electric rates to the lower 48 at .11 cent/kwh. For this reason I felt having a grow operation in Petersburg made sense. It will give me a small competitive edge down the road when the competition tightens.
For the lower 48 growers I’d highly recommend adding solar to future plans. Most electric utilities will now buyback power from businesses. You can install a solar array with a grid-tie system where the utility buys the electric that you produce which offsets your electric costs greatly. For larger grow facilities the electric utility likely charges you based on your kwh usage AND your demand usage. Demand is the measurement of your average and peak usage. Each utility is different so understanding how you’re charged for your electric usage can save you big time. Some heavy users are charged extra when usage exceeds set amounts, others are charged less when they exceed certain levels. It all depends on your utility companies rates and programs. Another thing to consider is time of use (TOU). In certain areas you’re charged more per kwh during certain times of the day. This has to do with how much available electricity the utility can generate. During the highest usage periods of the day the rate can increase or decrease. If you live in one of these areas it would pay to set your grow facility up to have the lights turn on during the low rate periods (Usually after normal daylight business hours).
I hope this can help any of you out there that can take advantage of this information. It can save your business a lot of money if you look into your setup and make sure you’re able to get your best rate, and reduce your operating costs. If anyone has questions, message me.