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Harvesting Local Energy: A Case Study of Community-Led Bioenergy Development in Galena, Alaska

Vikas Menghwani, Chad Walker, Tim Kalke, Bram Noble and Greg Poelzer
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Vikas Menghwani: Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C8, Canada
Chad Walker: School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C8, Canada
Tim Kalke: School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C8, Canada
Bram Noble: Department of Geography and Planning, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C8, Canada
Greg Poelzer: School of Environment and Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C8, Canada

Energies, 2022, vol. 15, issue 13, 1-17

Abstract: Community-led bioenergy projects show great promise to address a range of issues for remote and Indigenous Arctic communities that typically rely on diesel for meeting their energy demands. However, there is very little research devoted to better understanding what makes individual projects successful. In this study, we analyze the case of the Galena Bioenergy Project (Alaska)—a biomass heating project that uses locally sourced woody biomass to help meet the heating demands of a large educational campus. Using project documents and other publicly available reports, we evaluate the project’s success using three indicators: operational, environmental, and community level socio-economic benefits. We find that the project shows signs of success in all three respects. It has a reliable fuel supply chain for operations, makes contributions towards greenhouse gas reductions by replacing diesel and has improved energy and economic security for the community. We also examine enabling factors behind the project’s success and identify the following factors as crucial: community-level input and support, state level financial support, access to forest biomass with no competing use, predictable demand and committed leadership. Our findings have important implications for other remote communities across the Boreal zone—especially those with nearby forest resources. Our examination of this case study ultimately highlights potential pathways for long-term success and, more specifically, shows how biomass resources might be best utilized through community-led initiatives to sustainably support energy security in Arctic communities.

Keywords: Indigenous energy; energy security; interior Alaska; off-grid energy; distributed energy generation; biomass energy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q4 Q40 Q41 Q42 Q43 Q47 Q48 Q49 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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