Igiugig Site Visit Report

Levi Kilcher, Rebecca Green, Elizabeth Hotchkiss, Greg Stark, AlexAnna Salmon, Karl Hill

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) team conducted a site visit during January 23-25, 2019 with the Igiugig Village Council (IVC) and other stakeholders to assist the community of Igiugig in refining their long-term energy strategy. The agenda included a tour of the village, data collection, presentations, long-term visioning exercises, identification of energy scenarios, and a school presentation. Participants in the site visit activities spanned a range of local, regional, government, and industry participation. There were 24 attendees at the all-day community workshop on Thursday, January 24th, with participants from the IVC, NREL, Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA), Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), Lake and Peninsula Borough, Alaska Energy Authority, Intergrid, ORPC, Deer Stone Consulting, the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, and University of Alaska Fairbanks - Alaska Center for Energy and Power. Igiugig is a well organized rural Alaskan community, with a leadership team that appears to have broad community support. The use of consensus-based decision making is one tangible example of how the leadership team actively invokes and promotes community-focused thinking. The NREL team observed anecdotal evidence of how this approach seems to be strengthening the community: active participation in the visioning exercise, a student hosted fund-raiser dinner at the school, a clean and organized landfill, and well maintained roads and buildings. Igiugig has wind, solar, and river hydrokinetic resources readily available within the community. Wind has shown to be a promising resource in the region, and has been integrated into microgrids around the state, but the community has had mixed success with wind technologies: some devices failed quickly and others continue to operate. The economics of solar energy are improving in Alaska, and economical solar projects are being installed around the state. Considering that economic activity in Igiugig peaks during the summer sport fishing season, solar could prove to be a valuable supplement to the electrical system. Igiugig has been a test site for two different river hydrokinetic devices, and they have began a third project to operate ORPC's RivGen device, which is delivering valuable device performance data, operations and maintenance experience, and design refinement information. Already, this device has made over 7-million revolutions, and delivered over 8 MWh of power to the community. Igiugig's river resource is fairly unique because it is available year-round and has the potential to provide reliable base-load power for months at a time. A preliminary investigation of this diverse resource mix suggests that Igiugig could achieve very high levels (70% or more) of annual renewable generation contributions. A critical step in pursuing this path is identifying the mix of energy assets (generation and storage) that best meets the community's budget, needs, and goals. The assets that a community installs early in their grid-modernization initiative can constrain the options that are economical at later stages, which may lead to sub-optimal solutions. This is where technical and economic analysis of potential scenarios (i.e., distinct mixes of energy assets) can be useful in identifying the most promising pathways so that a community can make informed and strategic decisions about the assets they install. These analyses are most accurate and informative when they are based on actual technology performance and cost data. As the RivGen project continues to operate and generate this data, we will be better prepared to evaluate the technology's long-term viability and to identify research areas that would improve it. Igiugig's energy projects are at the cutting edge of two intersecting technology areas: 1) deploying an operational river hydrokinetic turbine, and 2) integrating renewable energy sources to achieve very high percent renewables. If these projects are successful, the lessons learned and technologies developed could be valuable for other microgrids around the world. Igiugig's unique resource mix make it an ideal location for this work, and the community's organizational strength make it an ideal partner in this ground-breaking work. Ongoing support for technical assistance to manage and address technical challenges along the way will maximize the probability of project success.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages32
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5700-79607


  • community
  • energy planning
  • technical assistance
  • water power


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