The wind working group discussed tasks of interest for wind development in rural as well as urban areas. The working group agreed that wind development challenges exist and have to be addressed. Some of the technical challenges have been outlined. Additional areas in need of further study were identified as follows:
- Identify different business structures that facilitate and optimize wind projects in rural and urban energy environments.
- Identify options and discuss the possibilities and cost of using excess wind energy for heating and transportation fuel displacement.
- Identify the social impact of community wind development.
- Create a database of locally available wind turbine models and system components.
- Identify and list research and development needs.
- Further study wind integration issues in larger grids, especially in conjunction with large hydro installations.
- Identify the Railbelt wind development potential in regard to viable project locations.
- Approach residential wind issues separately, but they should be studied when a larger impact on small community grids is apparent.
There is clear interest and motivation to add wind technologies to the options available for providing energy services to remote communities in Alaska. Although wind or any other renewable technology is not going to replace diesel technology in the near term, it is a valid option and should be considered for communities that have access to a reasonable wind resource.
The development of a wind-diesel power system or the incorporation of wind technology into an existing diesel power system is possible as can be seen by the recent history of projects installed around the state. At present, there are quite a few working examples and a large reservoir of resident expertise that can be tapped to improve future installations.
Costs and benefits must be assessed on a project by-project basis. The economic impacts must also be weighed against other benefits of using wind technologies, such as reduced risk to fuel price volatility, environmental impact, and energy security. It must also be understood that although wind is a commercial technology, its application in Alaska will continue to be challenging.
There are over 300 remote, diesel power stations in rural Alaskan communities, only 10 of these incorporate wind. This offers a great deal more experience to be gained in Alaskan wind applications. Nonetheless, the track record of wind integration at all penetration levels indicates that this is clearly a technology that is applicable for many of Alaska’s rural communities, as well as for those along the Railbelt.