Biomass-Heated Greenhouse Handbook Helps Turn Dream into Reality

Written by Shaina Kilcoyne, Renewable Energy Alaska Project

On a warm, bluebird day in April, Southeast Island School District and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership led a 25 person tour to Coffman Cove, Thorne Bay and Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island to see their biomass and greenhouse projects in person.  Tour participants from Hoonah, Kake, Hydaburg, Klawock, Petersburg, Tenakee Springs, Ontario and the Yukon each had in hand a Biomass Heated Greenhouse Handbook. This comprehensive handbook outlines how to turn these inspiring greenhouses from dream to reality. It was unveiled a day prior at the Alaska Wood Energy Conference in Ketchikan and is a free resource available to schools and anybody who is interested in building a Biomass Heated Greenhouse locally.   The USDA Forest Service and the Alaska Energy Authority commissioned the Handbook, in part to share successes and lessons learned from the Southeast Island School District and help streamline the process for future projects. Nobody wants to re-invent the wheel, and handbooks like these provide the tools so that interested local leaders don’t need to!

“We teach retention, other schools teach compliance” –Colter Barnes

Back on the tour on Prince of Wales Island, five to seven year old students confidently walked out to the chicken coop to do their morning chores – collecting and counting eggs, feeding chickens and ducks, refilling water.  Two high schooler’s run outside to the biomass boiler shed to stoke the fire between classes.  A middle school class weighs goldfish, calculates the amount of fish food to feed them (3% of their mass), and tests the water levels in the aquaponic greenhouse. 

Of the 500 plus schools in Alaska, four on Prince of Wales Island are now displacing heating fuel and imported foods with local woody biomass and greenhouses. According to Principal Colter Barnes, the $200 earned from delivering a cord of wood can make a big difference for families in these high cost communities, and produces about the same amount of heat as $500 worth of diesel fuel.  Students fund sports travel and even requested more duties stoking the boiler and hauling and cutting wood a couple of weeks ago to save up for prom.

These greenhouses are truly inspiring. They are creating jobs and economic development, generating clean, affordable, local energy, teaching nutrition and culinary arts, applied learning, and community engagement.  This is a story of building healthy, culturally vibrant communities and a more resilient region and the newly published handbook will help take this fantastic island-wide project to the next level.

Moving Forward in 2017: Communication is Key for a Thriving Partnership

Written by Alana Peterson, Program Director

I can’t believe 2017 is already here! I have a good feeling about this year, especially for the work we are doing together as a network. With limited resources and an unknown political climate, each of our organizations must prioritize our efforts on projects that will move our communities and region forward. No big deal… Right?

Our shared mission of creating resilient Southeast communities is achievable if we each commit to this model of collaboration and partnership. I know that SSP can serve as a successful model for other areas of Alaska. When they ask us how we achieved success, we will say the greatest challenge to making this network a success was through effective and deliberate communication. This means being thoughtful in every interaction. Effective communication can occur at any time, it can be during a meeting with staff, in a presentation to a group of people, through an email, or even through a monthly google hangout meeting. It is in those brief interactions that we make connections, and share ideas that create solutions or spur innovation within our collective efforts.

The point is, if we plan to make 2017 the best year SSP has had, then we need to start the year off right by sharing and communicating as effectively as we can. I hope to provide some opportunities to grow your individual communication skills during our monthly google hangouts as well as during our in-person meeting in Juneau March 16 & 17.

Here are ways you can become more involved and start communicating with the partnership on the work your organization is doing:

  1.       Newsletter Contributions

This is an online platform that works much like a private group on Facebook, where SSP partners can communicate in a public forum on a daily basis. I encourage you all to engage in the dialogue that is happening on the Google+ page daily! The more people contribute, the more useful it becomes.   If  you have an idea please share it with us at info@sustainablesoutheast.net. Also, please subscribe to this seasonal newsletter by clicking here. 

  1.       Google+ Community

This is an online platform that works much like a private group on Facebook, where SSP partners can communicate in a public forum on a daily basis. I encourage you all to engage in the dialogue that is happening on the Google+ page daily! The more people contribute, the more useful it becomes. Partners, please continue to contribute and follow along by clicking here. 

  1.       Midyear Meeting

We have scheduled to hold our next in-person meeting March 16 & 17 to coincide with Southeast Conference’s Midsession Summit in Juneau. I will send along an agenda in the near future. If you have attended our annual retreat in the past, you know how valuable these face-to-face opportunities are. This event is where we connect, improve our ability to work collectively, and get some relevant skills training (communication skills and much more!). If you know of someone or other entities that would like to participate in this event, let me know and I can make sure they get an invitation. I am also welcoming ideas for this meeting; if there is something of particular interest to you or your entity, let me know and we can try to make it happen!

  1.       Deciding the Future of SSP

In 2017 we will develop a plan to make the SSP a self-sustaining network that no-longer relies (solely) on grant funding; we are creating a steering committee called the SSP Sustainability Planning Group. This group will meet in person in Juneau on February 2nd and 3rd. This meeting will determine how to best utilize the remaining years of funding that are available and leverage those funds in the best way possible. This group will not be responsible for making the sustainability plan, but they will help to inform the plan that gets produced.  Please send me an email letting me know you would like to participate in this 2-day working group. We would really like to get as much input at this stage, so all are welcome to join (we can do video conferencing as well). Also look for a draft agenda to come in an email in the near future.

  1.       Inclusivity

This partnership is inclusive, so if you know of someone or an entity that would like to be a part of SSP, send them my way and we can get them connected as well!

Strategic Energy Planning in Hoonah

Community members clustered around tables at the Hoonah Indian Association (HIA) community building in Hoonah on Sunday afternoon. Some had already celebrated Mother’s Day in the morning and now were here to discuss energy solutions in their small islanded-grid town of 800. Hoonah became one of five high priority areas for the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory when HIA was accepted into the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) program in 2015.

Participants categorize energy projects and goals for discussion

Participants categorize energy projects and goals for discussion

The first step of the program is to complete a three-day community meeting in order to develop a Strategic Energy Plan for Hoonah.  Many efficiency and renewable energy priorities were discussed throughout the three day meeting.

You can find energy data on Hoonah and all Alaskan communities through the Alaska Energy Data Gateway.

Community members discuss an energy vision with the help of moderator Paul Kabotie, Kabotie Consulting

Community members discuss an energy vision with the help of moderator Paul Kabotie, Kabotie Consulting

 

Fish Eggs and Sunshine (Part 2)

Lawrence Armour, Brian Holter, and Marilyn Bell-Holter of the KCA participating in subsistence practices.

Lawrence Armour, Brian Holter, and Marilyn Bell-Holter of the KCA participating in subsistence practices.

With branches laid in place on Thursday and Friday, the waters around the kelp beds turning from their dark blue to the welcomed milky pastel green that signals the beginning of the spawn, the staff of Klawock Cooperative Association (KCA) waited impatiently through the weekend.

Morning arrives, overcast with a bit of a chill in the air as the crew climbed aboard the boat and headed out to check the hemlock branches that had been anchored out several days prior.

Arriving at the kelp beds the area was wild with life, sea lions and gulls, ducks and sea otters, seals and of course, the herring.  The water was active and the air was filled with the smell of spring as the crew began to pull in the branches.

Slowly they rose to the top, like a white flocked Christmas tree rising through the cloud of spawning herring came the branches to be pulled into the boat. Grinning, excited voices mixed with the happy first tastes of this spring subsistence harvest as the gear was hauled in and the branches securely stowed.

The boat starts and moves closer to the kelp bed, the kelp hook arcs into the air to splash behind a strand of kelp and the crew begin to haul it in.  Kelp fronds are carefully selected and picked leaving the kelp bulb intact so that next year the fronds will grow back.  The large leaves show a healthy layer of herring eggs as they’re also carefully stowed away, the crew enjoying a fresh morning snack of fish eggs on kelp as they finish their diligent harvest then start the boat once more and turn toward home, sending a brief message ahead of them to let the community know that it’s been a good harvest.

Brian Holter and Robert Jackson of the KCA offloading herring eggs.

Brian Holter and Robert Jackson of the KCA offloading herring eggs.

The boat arrives at the dock as the sun begins to break from behind the clouds, and even as it ties up people are waiting, small children on tip-toes, elders smiling in anticipation as the crew lifts the heavy totes from the boat to the dock.  The sounds of laughter and celebration fill the air as the crew begins to bag and distribute the harvest, we make sure that the elders get first pick, the kelp being highly prized goes first and the elders grin and smile as we make sure they have what they need.

Children dart in and out among those assembled to snatch little bites here and there from the branches or small pieces of kelp passed to them “slyly” by staff and elders alike.  The sun warms us as we share this time together, the community members coming and going as the tides themselves, the staff smiling and making sure that we share as much as possible with those who visit us.

You can feel it in the air, palpable and real, an electric current that passes between the staff and the community, a connection, a bonding developed through this sharing, a tie to the past and to the culture that we’ve continued into the modern age.

 

 

 

Thanks are given as we pass out the last of the harvest, we wash down the dock and the boats and the gear, the community thanks the KCA, and we in turn thank the herring and the ocean that provided for us once more this year.

It’s a good day, the sun is warm, the crew is tired, the community is happy and provided for, we welcome spring and the beginning of the subsistence season.

 

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Wrapping up Energy Audits – Thank You!

This summer, SSP’s Regional Energy Catalyst brought together energy experts to the communities of Haines, Hoonah, and Prince of Wales Island to help commercial building owners identify energy savings through a Level I Walk Through Energy Audit. With the help  of on-the-ground Community Catalysts, the team was able to identify plenty of interested commercial building owners, managers and tenants.  Jim Fowler of Energy Audits of Alaska audited 35 buildings totaling nearly 230,000ft2! These Level I Audits were paid for by the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with support from Southeast Conference, Renewable Energy Alaska Project, and Alaska Energy Authority. By coordinating the audits all together, the cost of these audits was cut by an estimated 2/3. The effort also included free energy workshops and outreach to numerous other building owners, managers and tenants through a ‘walking workshop.”

Direct follow up is being provided for all building owners that received an audit report.  The real results will hopefully be realized in the coming weeks and months.  We are optimistic that businesses can save money on their bottom line with energy efficiency measures, and hopefully re-invest in their businesses and community.  Thank you to all participants and partners!

EE Workshop Partners

 

Haines and Hoonah: Save energy and money in your commercial building!

Find out if you can save 30% on your energy costs!  With the help of many great partners, we are excited to bring this commercial energy efficiency workshop to Hoonah and Haines!  Limited availability- sign up for the workshop and energy audit today!  Public and Private commercial buildings that submit two years of energy data are eligible for the free Level I energy audit. What is a Level I Energy Audit?  Learn More HERE.

EE Workshop PartnersSchedule of Events:

HOONAH

June 9

Free Level I Energy Audits by Jim Fowler of Energy Audits of Alaska

For a free Level I audit, submit your building energy form to s.kilcoyne@realaska.org by June 3 or contact Shaina Kilcoyne at 907-331-7409 for assistance.  It will take about 1.5 hours to do the walk through with Mr. Fowler.

June 10

Free Commercial Energy Efficiency Workshop at the new Hoonah Indian Association Office from 9 – 10:30am

Stick around to speak one-on-one with the experts from 10:30 – noon

HAINES

June 11 

Free Commercial Energy Efficiency Workshop at the Haines Borough Public Library – Community Room from 9 – 10:30am

Stick around to speak one-on-one with the experts from 10:30 – noon

June 12 

Free Level I Energy Audits by Jim Fowler of Energy Audits of Alaska

For a free Level I audit, submit your building energy form to s.kilcoyne@realaska.org by June 3 or contact Shaina Kilcoyne at 907-331-7409 for assistance.  This will take about 1.5 hours to do the walk through with Mr. Fowler.

Commercial Energy Efficiency Workshop Topics:

  • The business case for energy efficiency
  • Funding options
  • Practical next steps from audit to savings
  • Protecting your investment – the value of good operations and maintenance
  • Direct support for taking the first step

Feel free to contact Shaina at (907) 331-7409 or s.kilcoyne@realaska.org with any questions

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