Alexanna Salmon says her small Alaskan village of fewer than 70 people needs the sun and wind to survive. Diesel fuel prices are unsustainable and if transitioning to renewable energy sources is good for the environment—great. It’s also cheaper than hauling fossil fuels by small plane or boats. So, Alexanna, the 27-year-old administrator of the Igiugig village, and her small team of friends and family have applied for grants and renewable energy opportunities, showing the rest of us how to end our addiction to fossil fuels.
Adapting for Survival, Adapting for Good
“Diesel fuel has tripled in price in the last decade. We have people who are literally living in energy poverty. People who are paying six-, seven-, eight-hundred dollars a month—just to electrify their house and heat their home. And that’s not sustainable,” says Chris Rose, executive director of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project. “The folks of Igiugig are actually well beyond the idea of 'Oh, we should do something.' And now they are really working hard to test some of these technologies.“
The first big project was a four-season greenhouse that grows valuable fruits, vegetables and herbs for the village and nearby fishing lodges. Those high-end lodges pay high-dollar for local produce. As Alexanna and her greenhouse managers learn more about gardening year-round, the yield will increase as will the profits. Three wind turbines provide light and heat year-round to the greenhouse to ensure a hearty bounty.
Residents like Karl Hill are installing solar collectors to heat water for their homes and super-insulating their walls for the long winters. In addition, the nearby Kvichak River will be the testing ground for two river energy generators, part of a series of Alaskan projects seeking to harness hydrokinetic energy.
“We are trying to build a sustainable village and we have this higher quality of life that we’ve self-determined,“ Salmon says. “We just realize ourselves as part of a greater whole. And maybe the world will do whatever works for them, but we have tried to be a model community here.”