Northwest Renewable News

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Bend Based Geothermal company ready to drill February 11, 2010

Filed under: Geothermal,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 2:19 pm
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Vulcan Power Co., a Bend-based geothermal energy company, expects to start construction on its first power plant within the year in Nevada.

The company was scheduled to start new drilling near Patua Hot Springs, east of Fernley, Nev., this week, with construction of a 60-megawatt power plant projected to begin in January, said Bob Warburton, Vulcan’s acting CEO.

Founded in 1991, Vulcan holds leases on about 170,000 acres of federal and private land in five states, giving it one of the largest portfolios of geothermal properties in the nation, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, an industry group.

A recent infusion of $108 million from Denham Capital, a private investment firm, will get the drilling started, Warburton said.

While it’s headquartered in Bend, Vulcan houses engineering and other operations in Reno and Fallon, Nev.

The company employs 49 people, but will be adding about 50 to 60 more to drilling crews over the next several months, Warburton said.

The company does not expect to add staff at the headquarters, located near Colorado and Columbia avenues.

Vulcan has several other projects in development, and in October, the company received a $3.8 million grant, which it must match, from the U.S. Energy Department to research methods for finding hidden geothermal reservoirs with potential to generate commercial power.

Fueled by government policies, geothermal energy development has soared in recent years.

After reporting no increase in geothermal electricity capacity from 2001 to 2004, the U.S. reported 3.5 percent growth in both 2007 and 2008, according to the Energy Department.

Last year, it grew 6 percent, with six geothermal plants coming online.

In 2009, geothermal accounted for about 2,800 construction-related jobs and 750 new full-time jobs, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.

“We feel very good about being in this market right now,” Warburton said.

Vulcan’s plans call for a second 60-megawatt geothermal plant at Patua, with additional 60-megawatt plants at three other sites in Nevada, the location for 85 percent of the company’s holdings.

Nevada, which has 21 operating geothermal power plants, has more projects in development than any other state, according to the association.

“It has become … a focal point for geothermal energy in the Western United States,” Warburton said.

Nevada and California increased their future requirements for renewable energy in 2009. The federal government started a loan program to fund innovative technology in geothermal and opened up other renewable energy financing, and the Bureau of Land Management has been selling geothermal leasing rights on federal land for several years.

Between June 2007 and November 2009, the agency sold leases on more than 723,000 acres in six Western states, reaping more than $73 million.

The BLM is currently conducting an environmental impact statement on a 127-acre site east of Fallon, where Vulcan proposes to build up to six 30-60 megawatt geothermal power plants. The review will also cover proposals by two other companies, one seeking to build a geothermal plant and the other requesting right of way for transmission lines.

“We think there’s a lot more there,” Warburton said. “We’ll find out as we continue drilling.”

Vulcan also has made sure it has customers for the power it expects to produce. It has contracts to supply power to two major utilities in California and Nevada and is presently negotiating a third contract, Warburton said. He could not name the company involved, but he expects negotiations to conclude in six to eight weeks.

Along with its lease holdings, Vulcan has branched into other aspects of geothermal exploration. It has a proprietary interest in software, started its own drilling company and has built its own crew to cement the wells, work previously done by a company out of Bakersfield, Calif.

Vulcan also has an application before the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to erect a nearly 350-mile transmission line, which would start east of Reno and extend to Las Vegas, although Warburton said the proposal is on hold.

Right now, he said, Vulcan wants to concentrate on producing electricity.

“We prefer to utilize our capabilities to get our power plants built,” Warburton said.

Tim Doran, Bend Bulletinhttp://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100211/BIZ0102/2110365/-1/RSSNEWSMAP

 

Idaho Power Files Plan To Meet Future Power Demand January 30, 2010

Idaho Power Co. has filed a plan with the state’s energy regulator detailing how it will meet growing customer demand over the next 20 years.

The state’s biggest utility says it intends to add 3,000 megawatts of power generated by a mix of natural gas, wind and geothermal to serve an estimated 680,000 customers by 2029. The company now serves about 486,000 customers.

The majority of the new energy is expected to come from the Langley Gulch natural gas plant now under construction near New Plymouth. Wind generation will provide 150 megawatts of energy, and geothermal sources another 40 megawatts.

The filing with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission also predicts increases in customer costs as the utility relies less on energy produced at coal-fired plants. About 78 percent of its electricity in 2008 came from hydroelectric and coal resources.
Idaho Power said it also hopes to reduce summer power demand by encouraging customers to use energy efficient appliances.

Associated Press http://www.kivitv.com/Global/story.asp?S=11904919

 

Seismic Activity a concern for planed Newberry Geothermal plant December 15, 2009

Filed under: Geothermal,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 3:31 pm
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Small earthquakes can be triggered from geothermal efforts like the one proposed for Newberry Crater, which use water pressure to create a network of tiny cracks deep below the Earth’s surface.

“When they fracture rock, they’re automatically creating earthquakes,” said Dennise Templeton, a seismologist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. “The whole issue is how big they are, and can they be mitigated so they’re not affecting people at the surface.”

In Basel, Switzerland, an enhanced geothermal project was shut down last week because of earthquakes that rattled homes. And at the Geysers in California, a project has been put on hold while the company addresses drilling problems and the Energy Department reviews seismic information in response to news reports.

But developers of the Newberry project, which recently received $25 million in federal stimulus funds, say the geology and the fracturing techniques proposed for the site south of Bend lessen the chances that people would feel any ground movement locally.

“We’re causing what are basically microscopic cracks in the rock to move,” said Don O’Shei, CEO of AltaRock, which is working with Davenport Energy on the Newberry geothermal project.

While seismometers measuring ground movement might pick up on that activity, he said, the vast majority of the quakes would be less than around 1.0 magnitude, and people would be “completely unaware they’re happening.”

Earthquakes produced by enhanced geothermal systems happen when crews drill a well, then inject pressurized water thousands of feet below the surface to fracture the rock.

The idea is to later circulate water through these fractures, heating it up before it’s pumped back to the surface to generate power from the heat.

AltaRock and Davenport are proposing to test the technique west of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, but still have to go through the permitting and environmental review process with the Bureau of Land Management, which will take months. Davenport previously drilled exploratory wells in the area but didn’t find the steam or hot water necessary for traditional geothermal power.

In the enhanced geothermal technique, “as you inject water down in the well to mine the heat, it opens up fractures,” said John Lund, director of the Geo-Heat Center at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.

“And as these fractures pop open, they release energy, and that energy is picked up on a seismograph.”

Most of the earthquakes from enhanced geothermal projects are small, he said, with some reaching around a magnitude of 3.0 — which is about the size at which people will feel some movement.

“Some of the lodges in the (Newberry) caldera might feel some of them,” he said, adding “I think it’s not going to be anything serious.”

During the permitting process for a project like Newberry, a seismologist would probably study the area and say whether earthquakes might be felt in nearby communities, he said.

Still, because the fracturing is happening at depths shallower than earthquakes normally occur, people might be able to feel smaller earthquakes, said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

“The closer it is to the surface, the smaller magnitude you can feel,” he said — and people might be able to feel a shallow magnitude 2.0 quake.

But with the geothermal issue, problems can stem from people’s perception of the quakes — whether or not they feel them.

“If there’s a lot of little earthquakes, even if there’s not much damage, people get really nervous,” he said. And that nervousness can be a legitimate concern for project developers, Vidale added.

Seismologists are realizing that there are areas of rock deep below the surface that are under stress and could generate earthquakes, he said. And the only way to know for sure what will happen at Newberry is to start the project.

“The only real way to know how many earthquakes will be generated is to start pumping fluids (into the rock),” Vidale said. “It’s hard to predict ahead of time.”

But O’Shei with AltaRock said that the Newberry project has key differences from the Switzerland effort.

In Basel, crews intentionally drilled into a large fault, hoping to use the pent-up energy of the fault to create fractures.

But Newberry is seismically stable, he said, and the local project’s engineers don’t want to create the whole network of faults at once — they want to generate multiple smaller systems.

“We can control it and do much smaller fracturing,” he said.

Crews will have sensitive monitoring equipment that will be able to tell them where the fractures are occurring, O’Shei said.

And if too much rock is moving, or the cracks are going in an unwanted direction, they can ramp down the volume or pressure of the water to stop the process, he said.

The Basel drilling rig was right in the middle of the city, he said, where many buildings were built hundreds of years ago.

“There’s all kinds of medieval construction there that’s very fragile,” O’Shei said.

And because Basel is on a major fault, while Newberry isn’t, the rocks at Newberry should be less likely to move, he said.

“A place that generally is seismically active is likely to be more sensitive to anything you would do there,” O’Shei said.

Kate Ramsayer, Bend Bulletinhttp://www.bendbulletin.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091215/NEWS0107/912150393/-1/RSSNEWSMAP

 

Boise is one of the world’s leading geothermal cities December 11, 2009

Filed under: Geothermal,Idaho — nwrenewablenews @ 4:19 pm
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This week world leaders gathering in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference are feeling the geothermal heat that is part of the energy solution for Copenhagen and for cities and countries around the world. In fact, Copenhagen could meet 50 percent of its district heating needs by using its geothermal resources.

With Copenhagen in the spotlight this week as an example of geothermal’s potential, the Geothermal Energy Association has identified 10 leading geothermal cities around the globe.

Boise made the list for several reasons: the city’s public works department has the largest direct use geothermal system in the U.S.; the city’s geothermal system injects 100 percent of the water back into the aquifer; the Idaho State Capitol is among several buildings in the Capitol Mall area that are heated by the system and Boise built its first geothermal heating system in 1892.

Last week the Boise City Council passed three resolutions furthering its commitment to using geothermal resources — increasing the city’s geothermal pumping limit, tying in with the Warm Springs water district to supplement its geothermal supplies and setting a policy for extending city geothermal lines to private property.

These agreements represent an “opportunity to maximize a resource that is about as good as it gets when it comes to climate change. Lowering our carbon footprint and being responsible with resources to the benefit of our citizens,” Mayor Dave Bieter said during the Dec. 1 council meeting.

In addition to Boise, other cities the international geothermal association recognized as examples of world leaders in geothermal municipal development include:

• Copenhagen, Denmark: Having set a target of zero carbon emissions by 2025, Copenhagen is a leader in clean energy alternatives and could meet 50 percent of its district heating needs by using its geothermal resources.

• Reykjavik, Iceland: With a high level of geothermal activity and insightful developments by the Icelanders over the years, 87 percent of Iceland’s buildings are heated geothermally.

• Reno, Nevada: City and business leaders have been encouraged by the success and remarkable potential of the energy source and are marketing Reno as a geothermal center for industry activities, corporate offices and research facilities.

• Perth, Australia: Perth has declared its intention to enter the geothermal community with a new twist — as the very first geothermally cooled city with commercial geothermal-powered heating and air-conditioning units.

• Xianyang, China: Recently deemed “China’s Official Geothermal City,” in the largest emissions-producing nation in the world, Xianyang is helping China achieve the goal they set of 16 percent renewables by 2020 — up from 7 percent in 2005. Also of note, Beijing famously used geothermal pumps to power the 2008 Olympics.

• Madrid, Spain: Madrid’s regional government is on board with six renewable energy projects, one of which is a 8-megawatt geothermal district heating project.

• Masdar City, Abu Dhabi: The city’s goal is to function 100 percent on renewable energy; a shining example to the rest of the world. The city plans to obtain half of its power from geothermal resources.

• Klamath Falls, Oregon: Geothermal has been used for space heating since the turn of the century and for a variety of uses including heating homes, schools, businesses, swimming pools, and for snow melt systems for sidewalks and highway. In addition, geothermal provides Oregon Institute of Technology’s 11-building campus all of its heating needs.

Cynthia Sewell, Idaho Statesmanhttp://www.idahostatesman.com/boise/story/1003511.html

 

Klamath Falls makes Int’l top 10 geothermal energy use list

Filed under: Geothermal,Oregon — nwrenewablenews @ 3:31 pm
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The Geothermal Energy Association on Thursday named Klamath Falls one of the world’s top 10 cities to embrace geothermal energy.

The Washington, D.C., trade association cited Klamath’s Oregon Institute of Technology, which heats its entire 11-building campus using geothermal energy. It also noted how Klamath Falls has used geothermal energy as a source of space heating since the turn of the century, and still uses it to heat schools, homes, businesses, swimming pools and snowmelt systems for public roads and sidewalks.

Klamath Falls is just one of three U.S. cities on the list, joining Reno, Nev., and Boise, Idaho.

The rest of the list includes: Copenhagen, Denmark; Larderello, Italy; Reykjavik, Iceland; Perth, Australia; Xianyang, China; Madrid, Spain; and Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.

Geothermal energy is produced when extreme underground temperatures heat water to produce steam, much like a conventional boiler. It becomes renewable when production facilities, which run the steam through a turbine, reinject the water back into the ground so it can reheat.

Portland Business Journal – http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2009/12/07/daily47.html

 

Malhuer Co. Geothermal project is a go December 2, 2009

Filed under: Geothermal,Oregon,Renewable Energy Projects — nwrenewablenews @ 12:59 pm
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A project in Malheur County to develop, produce and sell electricity from geothermal energy is moving ahead now after a conditional use permit from the Malheur County Planning Commission for the construction was issued.

The permits will clear the way for U.S. Geothermal’s proposed 22 net-megawatt power plant at Neal Hot Springs, west of Bully Creek Reservoir.

According to information provided by the company on its Web site, construction of the plant is currently scheduled to begin next year and is slated to be online by late 2011. Estimated cost of construction is $106 million.

U.S. Geothermal is in the running for a U.S. Department of Energy Loan, which, if obtained, would cover 80 percent of the construction cost. The due diligence review on the loan is now in progress.

The company received permits for four exploration wells from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries based on early test results.

Negotiations are underway for a long-term power agreement for the sale of the power.

U.S. Geothermal, a renewable energy development company, already operates geothermal plants at Raft River, Idaho and San Emidio Nev., and recently completed development of a second full-scale production well at Neal Hot Springs, a major step toward the development of its third operating geothermal power plant, the company said. The company plans to pump water out of the ground at a temperature of about 300 degrees, remove what heat is needed for power generation and inject the water back into the ground. The company reported that its first production well had flowing production temperatures of 286.5 degrees F. Depths of the wells will range from 2,800 feet to 3,800 feet.

“Approval of the conditional use permit is a key project milestone,” Daniel Kunz, U.S. Geothermal president and CEO, said in a statement.

“We appreciated the continue support from Malheur County and the state of Oregon as we advance toward construction of the Neal Hot Springs geothermal plant,” Kunz said.

 

Renewable Energy beginning to energize Alaska November 29, 2009

Filed under: Alaska,Energy Efficiency,Geothermal,Solar,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 5:47 pm
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Two spinning turbines dot the sky above Palmer, putting the quaint colony-era town on the forefront of a grass-roots make-your-own energy movement sweeping Alaska.

One of the wind-power turbines — like a streamlined pinwheel or a futuristic windmill — stands above a local chiropractor’s office. The other is a green addition to an elementary school playground.

The turbines are part of a move toward renewable energy in Alaska. Wind turbines dot rural Alaska. Solar arrays power a building in Nome. Tourists soak at Chena Hot Springs Resort, a getaway powered by geothermal energy. And increasingly, homeowners are using energy derived from the sun and wind to heat their homes, keep the refrigerator running and charge their iPhones.

Some involved in this movement are driven by a desire to reduce their impact on the environment. For others, the decision is financial. Using alternative energy means less reliance on diesel fuel to power generators.

State and local officials have been busy writing new rules for how all this can work, especially the backyard wind turbines.

Chiropractor Joseph Hawkins of Palmer is a pioneer. His roughly 50-foot-tall turbine makes more electricity than needed at his business, BIONIC Chiropractic, so he has a contract to sell the extra power to Matanuska Electric Association. He’s one of the first people in the Valley to ever do that.

His turbine towers over BIONIC Chiropractic at 642 S. Alaska St. It went up on Oct. 2. Hawkins said he’s been interested in renewable energy since helping his family install solar power in Utah 25 years ago.

“I’ve been involved or interested in doing anything we can do to be resourceful or protect the environment,” Hawkins said. “It portrays the healthy lifestyle I want to represent as a chiropractor.”

The turbine at his business is a residential-size model made by Skystream. It cost about $22,000 installed.

The turbine whirls frequently in Palmer, where breezes are common. Hawkins said he believes it will pay for itself in five to seven years.

Power generated is used first in the chiropractic office building he built last year. Matanuska Electric buys what’s left. In the six weeks the turbine has been energized, that’s been less than a hundred kilowatts, Hawkins said. The average home uses about 30 kilowatts each day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Hawkins and Lukas Strickland, a friend working with him on alternative energy plans, said they hope to install other types of renewables soon.

“Right now in Alaska people don’t really know what to think yet. This kind of project is really important to get people thinking about what renewable energy is,” Strickland said.

 

LEARNING POWER

The second Palmer turbine, installed Nov. 6, is a dramatic addition to the Sherrod Elementary School playground. The school’s Alaska-themed playground includes boulders marking Mount McKinley and a partial pipeline. Now, a 51-foot tall Skystream turbine stands about where Fire Island would be on the playground map.

It’s the first wind turbine installed at an Alaska school as part of the national Wind for Schools program. Principal Mark Hoffman said Sherrod is taking part in the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored program and tapping into wind energy-related curriculum for students. Schools in 26 states, including Alaska, participate.

In most of those states, small wind turbines have been installed, and teachers use data from the turbine as part of their lesson plan for teaching about energy and weather. At Sherrod, the turbine is powering hallway lights. District officials said it’s too early to know how much of the school’s energy bill the turbine might offset.

Sean Williams, a fifth-grade teacher at Sherrod, said he’s eager to have a new way to help his students understand a difficult concept like energy.

“It’s really foreign because (energy) is not obvious,” Williams said.

He teaches students that rubbing their palms together is one kind of energy and rolling a ball on the carpet is another. But other concepts are more difficult to teach. Now, with tools like exploded diagrams showing what’s going on inside the turbine and software that can track energy being produced, Williams said he believes his students will learn more.

Charlotte Ray said her third-grade class at Sherrod will focus more on the weather — what makes the turbine spin, and will it spin more tomorrow than it did today?

Ray’s students learn about weather patterns and make predictions, then record data to show what the weather was like over time.

“The goal in education is to interest and challenge them, and to help them get excited about learning,” she said. “Also, it’s cool for the kids to see how we can use where we live — in windy Palmer — as a benefit. It’s so often a detriment.”

 

SELLING EXTRA POWER

Nobody has a wind turbine whirling in their backyard in Anchorage, but the municipality and its power company are working to change that.

Anchorage zoning rules currently don’t permit wind turbines. One of its electric companies, Municipal Light & Power, doesn’t allow small consumers to hook a backyard turbine to the electrical grid and sell power back to the utility.

Jim Posey, general manager of Municipal Light & Power, said the city-owned electrical utility will soon offer “net-metering” contracts to Anchorage residents. The utility is waiting for the Regulatory Commission of Alaska — which oversees public utilities — to finalize its new net-metering rules.

Net metering is a policy that allows people or companies that own small renewable-energy facilities to sell excess power they generate to their local electric company.

Alaska is one of six states lacking net-metering laws. But the Regulatory Commission on Oct. 14 approved net-metering regulations. A commission spokeswoman said the regulations should go to the state attorney general’s office for review this month. Eventually, they’ll go to Gov. Sean Parnell to be enacted.

 

ANCHORAGE PLANS ON HOLD

Hawkins and Sherrod Elementary already have an agreement like that with Matanuska Electric Association. MEA consumers typically buy power for 16 cents per kilowatt. The co-generation rate — what MEA pays small producers — is about 6.2 cents. MEA spokeswoman Lorali Carter said the difference represents the utility’s cost to maintain its transmission lines and other infrastructure.

Posey described a similar set-up in the works at ML&P.

But the new net-metering laws might be in place for months before Anchorage residents can legally hoist a turbine into the air on their property. Residents who ask municipal officials about putting wind generators up now are told to wait, Anchorage physical planning supervisor Tyler Robinson said.

Robinson’s office worked last year to develop land-use rules about installing wind turbines.

The Planning and Zoning Commission passed the rules last fall. But the measure stalled when it reached the Assembly. The Assembly is rewriting city zoning laws and wants to finish them first before tackling new issues, Robinson said. The wind-generation rules may be on hold until mid-2010, he said.

Robinson said he gets frequent calls from city residents interested in installing wind generation on their property. There’s definitely interest.

But Anchorage isn’t an easy place to adopt one rule for all residents. The city wants to make sure wind-turbine rules are made after a vibrant public discussion.

“Some of these smaller applications, whether on residential lots or in business districts, will really challenge the values that people have,” he said.

“I don’t think if we were to just put it out there tomorrow it would be entirely embraced with open arms and everyone would think it’s a great idea. But I think the mayor is generally supportive.”

 

TURBINES SPROUT IN THE BUSH

Wind and other alternative power systems are cropping up all over the state, largely spurred on by abundant sources of funds — federal and state grants for renewable energy and federal tax credits for installed systems — and communities eager to cut their dependence on expensive diesel fuel.

Alternative energy supplier Kirk Garoutte, owner of Susitna Energy, said he talked Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan into granting him permission to install two turbines at his 2507 Fairbanks St. property to help him demonstrate the equipment he sells.

Without net-metering in place, the turbines will only churn wind, not make electricity, but Garoutte said they’ll allow his customers to watch turbines in action.

A residential set-up, installed, costs about $15,000, he said. A Department of Energy program that delivers a 30-percent tax credit for residential renewable energy systems installed by 2016 can help lower upfront costs.

Perryville, an Alaska Peninsula community of 133 people, installed 10 of his turbines, Garoutte said. He believes the turbines will pay for themselves in about 18 months. Others whirl in Nome, Shaktoolik, Chignik, Kipnuk, Fairbanks, Healy and Willow.

Meera Kohler, president of Alaska Village Electrical Cooperative, said her power company for 53 villages has energized 21 turbines since 2003. Four more will be spinning in Chevak before the end of the year, she said.

These are commercial-grade turbines, with an installed cost of nearly $1 million each, plus $1.5 million for a system that lets the turbines be monitored from afar, Kohler said.

AVEC spends about $5 million a year on diesel. The board hopes to shave $1.2 million off that with wind-generated energy, Kohler said.

Kodiak Electric Association in August installed three 1.5 megawatt turbines, each producing enough electricity to power 330 homes.

Darron Scott, Kodiak Electric chief executive, said in an August presentation to the Alaska Power Association that he expects the turbines will save 800,000 gallons of diesel each year.

A 36-turbine wind farm planned for Fire Island is expected to generate about 10 times the electricity from Kodiak’s three-turbine wind farm. Work on Fire Island could begin next year.

“We’re starting to see a lot of momentum pick up with wind around the state,” said Chris Rose, founder of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project.

 

SOLAR, GEOTHERMAL

Jerald Brown, president of the Bering Straits Native Corp. of Nome, said the corporation has invested more than $3 million in alternative energy products recently.

Two years ago, Bering Straits installed 93 solar panels on its Nome office building. The corporation also installed solar hot water heaters in two apartment buildings it owns, and partnered with Sitnasuak Native Corp. on Banner Wind LLC, a wind farm with 18 turbines that sells power to Nome Joint Utility.

Brown said the corporation is opening an energy-efficiency store in the corporate office building to sell LED light bulbs, energy-efficient garbage composters and timers to plug vehicles into.

Outside Fairbanks, a century-old resort where tourists flock to watch amazing northern lights displays while soaking in natural hot springs is on the forefront of alternative energy of a different kind.

In 2006, Chena Hot Springs owner Bernie Karl started generating power from geothermal hot water under the resort. This year he unveiled another mobile plant that uses heated waste water, from oil and gas development and other sources.

Out in Southwest Alaska, Naknek Electric Association is using millions in federal money to drill into potential geothermal sources. Its November newsletter describes results so far as “hopeful.”

There’s a lot happening Alaska backyards, too. This summer, 30 homeowners around the state participated in a “solar tour” aimed at taking the mystery out of green building techniques and home renewable energy systems.

In the Valley, some homes on the tour relied on renewable energy by necessity: A house made of straw bales that is beyond the reach of electricity and off-grid cabins near the Talkeetna Mountains that rely mostly on solar power, for example. Others incorporated efficient designs and renewable features for other reasons.

A modern two-story colonial home with a garage and full basement on the tour is heated by sun-warmed water. Homeowners Dave and Karen Jones said they wanted a low-maintenance home with low energy costs that they can enjoy in their retirement.

“We’re not making any concessions,” said Dave Jones. “We’re not tree huggers. We’re normal people. We’re just looking for a more efficient way to do it.”

Phillip St. John, president of the nonprofit Alaska Center for Appropriate Technology, said events like the solar tour show people renewable energy is something anyone can do.

“There’s really people out there doing it. Their neighbors are doing it,” he said. “If you think renewable energy is something for the future, then you’re living in the past.”

Rindi White, Associated Press – http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/973093.html