August 12, 2010
A large number of rural communities in the region and the state are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, such as diesel and heating oil-unsustainable resources that have caused much economic hardship in rural Alaska and around the world. The project aims to demonstrate how energy efficiency and renewable energy can cut energy costs in rural communities by up to 65%. The project will also result in a documentary film that will be distributed in Southeast Alaska and via the Internet.
A group of project partners, headed by the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Central Council), hosted a meeting in Angoon and the house of Peggy and Kelly Williams was selected to be the project's focus. The Williams, elders whose home was chosen based on a combination of need, interest, and favorable site characteristics, will receive a complete retrofit of their home including new insulation, new siding, new appliances, and even solar panels and a small wind generator to offset some of the house's energy needs with renewable energy. The work will be completed in September.
"I'm very excited to participate in this project," said Peggy Williams. "It'll be nice to live in a warm house, reduce my energy consumption, and be able to get some of my power from the sun."
The project is part of efforts at Central Council, Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council to address the issue of high energy costs that continuously challenge the sustainability of Southeast villages.
"This project is greatly needed in Angoon, especially for our elders, many of whom are forced to choose between heat and food during the coldest parts of the winter," said Rocky Estrada, a young college graduate and lifelong Angoon resident who is now running the Angoon Business Center. "Sustainability has always been a strong value in our Native culture. The community is happy to investigate the opportunity of using sustainable resources like solar and wind in place of unsustainable fossil fuels."
A focus of the project will be knowledge sharing between the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, which regularly completes energy efficiency retrofits in Angoon and other Southeast villages, and the Maharishi University of Management, a college in Iowa whose campus is partly energy self-sufficient and where sustainable living is a common academic focus. It will also be a chance for both organizations to further investigate some emerging energy techniques and technologies. These emerging technologies include outside insulation retrofits, energy management units that allow homeowners to monitor their own energy usage, and solar panels that produce energy in cloudy weather.
"We are pleased to be working on this exciting project with Central Council and other partners. The project offers unique opportunities to try new approaches and new technologies in a Southeast Alaska setting," says Craig Moore, Vice President of Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority.
In a companion effort that will accompany distribution of the documentary and extend the reach of this demonstration project, the project partners are also hoping to raise enough funds to provide LED bulbs to all interested households in Angoon and four other diesel-dependent Southeast communities. LED light bulbs use a fraction of the energy of compact fluorescent bulbs, and have the potential to save millions of gallons of diesel fuel over the life of the LEDs while improving the lives of residents of these communities. A total of $543,128 is being sought through online donations at sustainangoon.org to cover the cost of purchasing and installing LED bulbs in these five communities.
For more information, or to donate to this effort, visit the project's web site, www.sustainangoon.org For sponsorship inquiries, contact Adrei Chakine at (907) 463-7121. Project supporters and sponsors will have a chance to be featured in the documentary film that will be distributed worldwide.
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