Geothermal development is heating up in Alaska

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) Volcanoes along the Aleutian chain, hot springs in the interior and the Southeast. these are Alaska's three main geothermal resources. Lisa Murkowski has encouraged Alaskans to develop them. Gwen Holdmann, Director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power says the main thing stopping development is the distance.

A map of heat values across Alaska. Courtesy of Alaska Center for Energy and Power.

“At the end of the day, if you're looking at economic development of these resources, you need to have some sort of a load within a reasonable distance to make it worth developing or some way to attract industry to that location,” Holdmann says.

Holdmann has studied geothermal energy in Iceland, which she and Murkowski say is a good example.

"Iceland has been really successful in producing about fifty percent of the food that's consumed in Iceland domestically mostly using geothermal heat and geothermal energy," Holdmann says.

However, Alaska's heat resources are a little different from Iceland's.

There's a lot of things that we can do that are pretty similar to what Iceland's been able to accomplish, but our specific geothermal resources, the origin of them is slightly different," Holdmann says.

The ACEP has looked at ways to get around the distances between heat sources and population centers, and one solution they've found is agriculture.

“That's one of the things that we've worked with Pilgrim Hot Springs out in Western Alaska on is having local food production, and then exporting that food to other parts of the region," Holdmann says.

While the future of geothermal energy in Alaska is unclear for now, it's sure to be a hot issue in the coming years.

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