- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Rural communities in Alaska are set to receive more than $16 million in federal grants to go toward their energy projects.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made the announcement Wednesday. The grants will fund projects in areas where households pay at least 275 percent of the national average for their energy, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported (https://bit.ly/28QN3AW).

Recipients of the High Energy Cost Grants include nine towns, tribal organizations and utilities in various parts of Alaska. The awards range from $450,000 for the city of Grayling to build a system designed to capture and convert heat from its diesel plant to $3 million for the Alaska Village Electric Co-op, or AVEC, to develop a grid connecting towns to a planned wind farm in the Yukon Delta.

All the projects are aimed at using alternative energy sources or increasing efficiency in an effort to reduce dependence on diesel.

AVEC President Meera Koehler said at a Thursday press conference in Anchorage that the federal dollars are “critical to make these projects actually viable.”

Patrick Boonstra is an employee of Intelligent Energy Systems, which is working with the Alaska Peninsula city of Pilot Point to install a wind turbine and electric stoves with grant funding. He said funding these types of projects in rural areas brings more to communities than just a way to make energy cheaper.

“It’s not just the new technology that’s very exciting, it’s involvement of the community, building the project, maintaining the project and all the training that goes into the people development and getting to a point where maybe Alaska exports its talent in microgrids, instead of just oil,” Boonstra said.

Grant recipients still need to complete environmental reviews of their projects before securing the funding.

Other organizations that have been awarded a grant include the NANA Regional Corporation, which will get more than $1.6 million to install a battery and grid-forming converter in Buckland and Deering. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is set to receive $690,388 to install solar photovoltaic arrays to reduce the operating costs of several community water treatment facilities.

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Information from: KSKA-FM, https://www.kska.org

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