In 2011, Sitka’s hydroelectric capacity was at the lowest in the last 30 years. The combination of a lower supply due to less rain and a high demand for electric heating forced the City and Borough of Sitka to use hundreds of thousands of gallons for diesel fuel last year alone to supplement the town’s electric need.
On January 17, 2012 electric customers pushed our hydroelectricity to the max, setting a new peak load record for the town. At 6:00pm electric customers used 24MW of electricity to set a new hydroelectric record for Sitka. According to the Electric Department, ‘this is 5 MW, or 26% greater, than the 19 MW electrical peak hit in 2005.”
Although recent increased rainfall decreases the likelihood that hydroelectricity will run out before spring weather melts the snows, the City Utility Director, Chris Brewton, still encourages residents to conserve electric energy.
Home weatherization and upgrading appliances are examples of ways to make big changes in your home’s overall energy efficiency. However, there are many free ways to conserve electricity for those who want to do their part to reduce Sitka’s dependance on the backup diesel generators, but don’t have the money for home weatherization.
Take Action: 10 Free Ways to Save Electricity
Tip 1: Air dry your dishes instead of using the drying cycle of your washing machine. If you do a load of dishes before bed, they will be dry in the morning.
Tip 2: Turn off your monitor computer when not in use. Desktop computers use significantly more energy than laptops. However, you can reduce your desktop’s electric load by simply pressing a button after each use.
Tip 3: Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater and dishwasher to 120 degrees F. At this temperature, you water is still hot and your dishes clean, yet you cut down each appliance’s electric consumption.
Tip 4: Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months. This simple act removes sediment that impedes heat transfer and increases overall efficiency. In fact, this can increase your water heater’s efficiency by 30%!
Tip 5: Wash your clothes on the cold/cold cycle of your washing machine. Enjoy clean clothes and know that you saved over 90% of the energy you normally use since heating the water accounts for most of energy expended to wash clothes.
Tip 6: Set your refrigerator to 37-40 degrees F and your freezer to 5 degrees F (0 degrees F for long-term storage). Appliances like refrigerators run constantly and suck up energy throughout the day. Therefore, if you raise the overall temperature by just a few degrees your refrigerator will use less energy while still keeping your food fresh.
Tip 7: Remove lint from your dryer filter after each use. A fresh filter for each load will improve air circulation to make your clothes dry faster and increase your dryer’s overall efficiency.
Tip 8: Use toaster ovens to bake smaller meals instead of using your stove/oven. Toaster ovens heat up more quickly and require less energy to bake small meals.
Tip 9: Keep window shades on the south side of your house open. Natural heat and light will decrease your heating system’s workload. This is especially valuable since home heating is the #1 contributor to your monthly energy bill.
Tip 10: Turn off your kitchen and bath fans within 20 minutes after use. This window allows ample time to ventilate the room but does not waste unneeded energy.
The first step towards achieving energy awareness begins in the schools. In 2011, the Sitka Conservation Society launched an energy education program called Energize to Educate. The program consists of five comprehensive lessons spread across the school year and make students more aware of the role of energy in the world today. The lessons cover Sitka’s energy situation and conservation, fossil fuels in Alaska, home weatherization, home and building energy audits, and a tour of the Blue and Green Lake Dam that produce the town’s hydroelectricity.
The first lesson on hydroelectricity already reached one third and fourth grade class, as well as every sixth grade class. In December, one fourth grade class completed the second lesson on fossil fuels in Alaska and so did the entire seventh grade. Over 270 students received a portion of the energy curriculum by the first semester.
Despite the program’s initial success, additional program support to the school board is needed to ensure that all lessons are available to students since it is not yet part of the school’s guaranteed curriculum. However, several teachers at Keet Goohsi Heen Elementary and Blatchley Middle School expressed interest in completing the program in the next semester of the school year.
Small changes to a drafty or poorly insulated house can result in a significant drop in winter heating for a Sitka homeowner, not mention reduce the burden on the hydroelectric demand which is currently running at capacity. With this in mind, the Sitka Conservation Society and the Southeast Alaska Career Center partnered to bring residents five days of weatherization workshops led by Jim Ward, Board President, from the Alaska Craftsman Home Program in November 2011.
The first three days of workshops were geared towards construction trade professionals. Topics included Building Energy Efficiency Standards and Advanced Cold Climate Building. Each participant attended full day classes and had the opportunity to update or attain the Residential Endorsement Certificate. The professional workshops also offered partial education requirements for state licensing. Of the participants who took the exam, 100 percent passed.
Following the workshops for professionals, ACHP offered shorter do-it-yourself weatherization workshops geared for homeowners. Topics in these eight workshops included energy efficient insulation, windows and doors, ventilation, and lighting and appliances. Participants were able to pick two hour sessions with a licensed professional.
Over 175 participants ranging from homeowners to local contractors, to home auditors, city staff and more attended the workshops. The workshop facilitator was impressed by the turnout and arranged to return to Sitka with more weatherization workshops in 2012. The set days for the workshops are March 3-7. Information on specific session information and times will be updated in the future.