Environmental and economic analysis of small-scale wood energy systems within Alaska’s Native communities
Thursday, August 5, 2021
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David Nicholls, PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Sitka, AK, Daisy Huang, Engineering, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK and Art Nash, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK
PNW Research Station, USDA Forest Service Sitka, AK, USA
Background/Question/Methods Over the past decade, wood energy for community-scale applications in Alaska have made significant advances and nowhere is this more apparent than the Native Alaskan communities. This research considers both the economic and environmental benefits to villages due to wood energy use. We use RETSCREEN software to simulate conditions in 5 Alaska villages, representing a wide range of climatic conditions, wood fuel use, and community needs. For each location we modelled project economics and conducted sensitivity analysis on key variables of interest (initial capital cost, fuel oil cost, and wood fuel cost). Monte Carlo simulations were performed to evaluate economic results of interest included net present value, payback period and internal rate of return. We also performed a greenhouse gas analysis to compare emissions reductions attributable to wood energy (versus fossil fuel heating oils). Results/Conclusions Our research indicates that rural Alaskan villages avoided substantial CO2 emissions through use of wood energy, and that payback periods of as short as 7 years were not uncommon. Sensitivity analysis was conducted for capital cost versus wood fuel cost and also versus alternative fuel cost. This research is significant due to the increased use of renewable energy in Alaska at the community level and the ability for rural villages to achieve energy independence via sustainably managed local resources.