BETHEL, Alaska — After years of spending hundreds of dollars a month on heat, some Kongiganak residents have seen their bills cut in half by a microgrid system tied to their thermal stoves.

Puvurnaq Power Company, the village’s utility, built the microgrid. The village is a member of the Chaninik Wind Group, a collection of four communities working together to build new energy systems, KYUK-AM reported Monday.

Kongiganak and the other villages get their power from a hybrid system using diesel and renewable energy.

Five wind turbines provide Kongiganak with about 25 percent of its power needs, on average. But what makes those turbines special is their connected use to residents’ thermal stoves.

The stoves are hooked up to the village’s microgrid, so excess energy that the wind turbines generate is diverted to them. On windy days, the turbines typically produce more power than the grid can use, making the stove system highly cost effective.

Village resident Ralph Kiunya said the stoves are what cut cost by about 50 percent.

“Over 90 percent of our community relies on subsistence, and the savings they’re getting is going to putting more food on the table,” said Roderick Phillip, manager of Puvurnaq Power Company.

The utility company is installing more thermal stoves and a bank of lithium batteries this month.

“By next month we will have the most advanced system in the northern hemisphere,” Phillip said.

Dennis Meiners, the founder of Intelligent Energy Systems, said Kongiganak’s system has caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Meiners said he expects the village’s wind turbines to displace more than 50 percent of the community’s diesel usage. He said other microgrid experts are watching the project to see if Kongiganak can pull it off.


Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org