Top officials from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs visited Shungnak to announce that the community was selected for the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. START is part of the DOE Office of Indian Energy effort to assist in the development of tribal renewable energy projects. Through START, Tribes in the 48 contiguous states and Alaska can apply for, and are selected, to receive technical assistance from DOE and National Laboratory experts to move projects closer to implementation.
Alaska START works with Alaska Native Corporations and federally recognized Tribes to achieve the following goals: reducing the cost and use of energy for rural Alaska consumers and communities; increasing local capacity, energy efficiency, and conservation through training and public education; and, increasing renewable energy deployment and financing opportunities for communities and utilities.
While in the region, Alaska DOE Office Director Givey Kochanowski was joined by the Director of Indian Energy Policy and Programs Christopher Deschene and Chief Operating Officer Mike Rodriguez on a three day tour.
DOE met with the community of Shungnak, answering questions and listening to comments. After the meeting, they traveled by boat up the Kobuk River to the Shungnak Culture Camp where they were able to see children from the village learn traditional Iñupiaq ways from the Elders and other adults at the camp. Before leaving they toured the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) facility and the water treatment plant which is fueled in part by a solar array.
While in the Upper Kobuk, they also went on an aerial tour that included Kogoluktuk River, Bornite, Ambler and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes.
The team also visited the community of Selawik to look at their water/sewer plant, wind turbines and power plant. Then they headed to Kivalina where they met with the Kivalina IRA and public to hear their concerns on energy and sanitation.
The trip ended in Buckland where they commissioned the Buckland wind turbines (story below). The project started as a collaboration between NANA and the Northwest Arctic Borough (NAB) with funds from DOE and the State of Alaska, resulting in two Northwind 100s. The project is projected to provide substantial savings to the community. While in Buckland, they also toured the solar array project that is aimed at lowering the cost of energy and ultimately save money for the people of Buckland.
The next step for the START project in Shungnak includes the evaluation of energy solutions with the community.