Depending on where he or she lives in the state, the average Alaskan resident spends somewhere between 32% and 93% more for utilities than an individual living elsewhere in the United States. The factor that weighs heaviest on the pocket books of Alaskans is housing. In 2009, Alaskans spent $759 million cumulatively for heating oil, natural gas, firewood, and electricity to heat their homes according to the U.S. Energy and Information Administration. Alaska’s unique geographic aspects and climate make renewable energy sources such as geothermal, wind, solar, and water plentiful across the state. All of the above, while often requiring higher upfront costs, cost less over time than the current common energy choices used in the state and are less detrimental to the environment. If you’re looking to convert to renewable energy in Alaska, here are your options.
Geothermic energy systems present as one of the most effective renewable energy choices for most Alaskans due to the high rate of volcanic activity in the state. Unfortunately, they are also the most expensive option. Geothermic energy systems use heat generated by the earth itself to heat and cool homes and water. Initial setup is expensive, ranging from around $19,000 to $30,000 after rebates from state and federal programs, however, after set-up monthly utility costs drop dramatically. Geothermal systems run entirely on renewable energy and pose no environmental threat when installed and maintained properly.
Wind power systems are far more affordable than geothermal options and highly effective in almost all inhabited areas of the state which have fair to superb wind levels for generators. In a wind generator system, wind spins a turbine that generates electricity which can be stored in batteries or fed back to a local power grid to offset low-wind period energy costs. Set-up costs depend on the energy output desired, but can range anywhere from $3,000 for a small supplemental system to $35,000 for a full power supply. Outside of maintenance costs wind generators cost nothing on a monthly basis, and again, run on an entirely renewable source with no harmful emissions.
In the summer, solar power can be a wonderful energy option for Alaskans thanks to the state’s nearly 24-hour sunlight. However, in the winter when daylight hours are limited, it’s a less than ideal choice. Solar power can be used as a perfect supplemental source to wind systems as the battery storage packs used in both are the same. Solar systems use panels to absorb the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity. Cost of installation depends on the energy needs of the home. For most homes, a solar system would cost somewhere below $20,000, which can be reduced by tax rebates offered for installation of renewable energy systems. Solar power also has no monthly cost beyond maintenance, is entirely renewable, and poses no environmental threat during use.
The final renewable energy source available in Alaska, hydroelectric power, requires a running body of water, and so is not a viable option to most Alaskan residents for private use, however, hydroelectric plants are currently the state’s largest renewable energy source. Supporting the construction of community hydroelectric power plants provides an environmentally cleaner option to lowering utility costs for everyone.
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