by Kevin Tidmarsh
A new initiative from the US Department of Energy aims to “develop regional energy experts to provide technical energy assistance and informational resources,” according to a DOE press release. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this move has already drawn criticism from conservative pundits, who are calling the move a waste of money on the government’s part.
Just a day after the Andrew Follett at the Daily Caller has already released a piece [http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/16/energy-dept-spends-7-million-on-north-alaska-solar-power-except-its-dark-247/] decrying the program as a waste of government money. The headline, which declares that the energy department has spent “$7 Million On North Alaska Solar Power, Except It’s Dark 24/7,” is both misleading and factually incorrect. While that may be true at some points in the winter for locales above the Arctic Circle, the grant isn’t limited to these locations, and a report from the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy notes that in the southern parts of the state, power production from solar panels doesn’t actually have to stop during the winter [http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/65834.pdf, page 3]. In fact, many of the areas in Alaska where there is the greatest capacity for solar power in terms of kilowatt hours per square meter per day are located far below the Arctic Circle, according to the Office of Indian Energy report [http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/65834.pdf, page 2]. Furthermore, the extended hours of sunlight during the summer in the northern part of the state might be ideal for solar production, with the sun never falling below the horizon in some places for parts of the summer. And finally, nowhere does the grant information state that the energy grants have to be for solar power or even renewable energy projects.
For towns and villages that are off Alaska’s road system (of which there are many), solar power could potentially provide an indigenous energy source that reduces their dependence on diesel generators. Furthermore, the grants are relatively small in the grand scheme of things: the DOE press release says that the total awards will consist of “$300,000 to $1,000,000 for the entire period of performance of 3–5 years,” after which the programs will be financially independent. The awards will total $7 million, which is very little compared to the overall federal budget. Perhaps those looking for government waste should look elsewhere.
“DOE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INTER-TRIBAL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ENERGY PROVIDERS NETWORK FOA.” U.S. Department of Energy. February 15, 2016. http://energy.gov/indianenergy/events/doe-establishment-inter-tribal-technical-assistance-energy-providers-network-foa
Follett, Andrew. “Energy Dept Spends $7 Million On North Alaska Solar Power, Except It’s Dark 24/7.” The Daily Caller. February 16, 2016. http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/16/energy-dept-spends-7-million-on-north-alaska-solar-power-except-its-dark-247/
Schwabe, Paul. “Solar Energy Prospecting in Remote Alaska.” U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy. 2016. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/65834.pdf