A new and experimental river energy turbine could provide clean power to remote villages in Alaska. Testing “hydrokinetic” turbine is the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, a research institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. They are seeing how the turbine works on the Tanana River near Nenana, an Alaskan village of about 600 people located in the far northern outskirts of Fairbanks.
Villagers depend on the Tanana river to provide the salmon it catches for their livelihood. When the river freezes, it functions as a roadway for dog sleds and snowmobiles. More and more, rural villages worldwide are trying to figure out ways to live off the grid and are using diesel generators for power, having a negative impact on the environment. Generators produce black carbon emissions speed up Arctic warming from the carbon falling on the ice. The darkened ice has limited ability to bounce sunlight back into space, reducing the melt. Oceana Energy, a small private energy firm,is testing of their turbine and if it proves successful and is put to use, the hope is to reduce carbon dioxide and black carbon emissions by lessening the use of diesel oil, slow the permafrost thaw and reduce the country’s highest electricity costs. Hydrokinetic devices are powered by moving water and are different from traditional hydropower turbines in that they are placed directly in a river, ocean or tidal current. President Obama will visit Alaska’s Arctic August 31 – September 3. He is the first American president to visit the region. The trip is part of his campaign to fight climate change and his itinerary will include seeing Alaska’s rapidly melting glaciers and meeting with hunters and fishermen whose livelihoods are threatened by global warming.
“What’s happening in Alaska isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action,” President Obama said as he announced his upcoming trip. “It’s our wake-up call. The alarm bells are ringing. And as long as I’m president, America will lead the world to meet this threat — before it’s too late.”