Distributed Renewables for Arctic Energy: A Case Study

Ben Anderson, Rob Jordan, Ian Baring-Gould

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Alaska is a vast state that stretches into the Arctic Circle. Roughly 140,000 people in the state are dependent on isolated electric grids, traditionally burning expensive fossil fuels. This has negative impacts on air quality and climate. As the climate warms, fuel supply chains and traditional ways of life are threatened. Renewable electric sources offer a clean, resilient alternative with less volatile costs, but there are a variety of technical, social, economic, and political challenges to developing renewable energy systems in remote Arctic communities. Examples include harsh operating conditions, lack of local technical and managerial capacity, complex funding mechanisms, and glacial permitting processes. In this study, we interview one group of communities that are interested in adding renewable energy to their systems to understand the needs and challenges they face, and then another group that has successfully installed renewable energy, to understand how they overcame such challenges and the lessons they learned. Notable results include the importance of local buy-in, education, and technical involvement, procuring external funding sources, inter-community collaboration, installing bespoke systems, and working with reliable equipment suppliers. The goal of this report is to orient and inspire Arctic communities that want to begin their renewable transition, by providing helpful examples and points of contact.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages35
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-84391


  • Alaska
  • arctic
  • distributed wind
  • microgrid
  • rural development


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