Rural Energy Program
Providing the health benefits of clean water and sanitary sewer systems for remote communities in cold climates makes for unique challenges, including extremely high energy usage and high energy costs. The goal of ANTHC’s Rural Energy Program is to make clean water and sanitation systems efficient, sustainable and affordable.
On average, energy costs represent 39 percent of the total cost of providing water and sewer services and make up nearly a third of the total amount of energy used by a rural community. These high costs are passed down to community members through their monthly utility bills. By finding alternative energy sources and innovative solutions, a community can reduce the cost of operating and maintaining its water and sewer systems.
The Rural Energy Program works directly with communities to improve sustainability and lower operating costs of sanitation systems and health care facilities across Alaska.
The Program’s work includes:
- Operator training to reduce energy usage and improve operations.
- Energy audits of water treatment plants, public buildings and health clinics to analyze energy use and determine potential improvements projects for maximum energy savings.
- Energy efficiency upgrades to realize savings, such as boiler maintenance and tuning, LED lighting and building weatherization.
- Renewable energy projects to reduce dependence on imported fuel for heating and electricity need. We design and construct projects such as biomass boilers, heat recovery systems, wind, solar and hydro projects, and ground and air source heat pumps.
- Remote monitoring to catch problems early and prevent potential catastrophic failures and costly water treatment plant repairs. Remote monitoring uses small wireless devices in key locations to keep tabs on system temperatures, flow rates, water level and pressure.
Renewable Energy Projects
In many communities across Alaska, renewable energy projects are reducing the use of diesel fuel, which makes the cost of clean water and sanitation facilities more affordable and sustainable. Examples of ANTHC sustainable energy projects include:
Solar From sunshine to savings, solar arrays offset the cost of water pumping, treatment processes and facility lighting. Solar project installations can provide up to 40 percent of a water system’s required power without disrupting the local electric grid.
Heat Recovery A heat recovery system captures the heat produced by diesel-powered generators at an electric plant and transfers it to the local water treatment plant, which replaces the amount of fuel oil needed to heat the facility. In some cases, heat recovery projects meet 100 percent of the water system’s heating demand.
Geothermal Energy Technology The constant temperature of subsurface earth matter is a renewable energy source that can be harnessed by ground source heat pumps. These pumps employ a geothermal loop that extracts heat from the earth and transfers is to a facility’s heating system.
Hydroelectric Renewable and sustainable, hydroelectric power harnesses the movement of water and converts it to electricity. Water systems often share infrastructure with hydroelectric facilities, a practice that reduces capital costs associated for both sanitation and power infrastructures, benefitting the entire community.
Wind to Heat Harvesting the power of the wind provides a clean, renewable source of energy. Water treatment plants use off-peak power from wind turbines to offset heating expenses. Wind energy costs about $0.05 per kilowatt hour, or the equivalent of a $1.46 gallon of fuel oil, compared to the typical fuel oil prices in rural communities that can be as high as $6-$10 per gallon.
Biomass Carefully managed, wood is a sustainable natural resource for heat. Biomass boilers are wood-fired, replacing traditional fuel oil for heating a community’s water system and public facilities. The boilers run on cord wood, wood pellets or wood chips. Using locally harvested wood cuts energy costs, creates jobs for biomass boiler operators and wood harvesters, and keeps more money in the local economy.
Throughout Alaska’s rural communities remote monitoring systems are helping to protect water treatment plants. These small, but mighty, wireless monitors provide early detection of potential problems by monitoring temperatures, flow rates, water level, and pressure. This data allows local operators and technicians outside the community to identify issues such as freeze-ups and water leaks, as well as track performance for future energy audits and retrofits. Catching problems early can prevent catastrophic failures and costly repairs to water treatment plants.
Battery powered wireless sensors communicate with a gateway router that sends data and alerts to devices, such as laptops and cell phones. This data can also be accessed, at any time, through the remote monitoring website at www.anthc.bmon.org.
Bethel and Kotzebue are two prime examples of Alaskan communities that use remote monitoring at their water treatment plants. Remote maintenance workers Bruce Nelson and Bob White discuss these systems and why remote monitoring is an invaluable safeguard in their communities here:
Remote monitoring is available for any type or size of water treatment plant. The staff at ANTHC are here to design a remote monitoring system for your community’s water plant needs and specifications. For additional information and to discuss possible funding sources please contact the Rural Energy Program at (907) 729-5688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.