This is the first of five articles about the challenges and changes that are likely headed our way in the next fifty years. It’s also about what the people of Seward want their community to be in fifty years, and how do we get there. Readers are invited to respond with their ideas and comments.
The main challenge will be building a sustainable economy that can provide income, energy, food, entertainment, transportation and recreation for its citizens for the long term. For example see Wikipedia for “Sustainable Community”
Given the fragility of today’s, and probably the future’s, world economy and supply/afford ability of carbon fuels, the first of concern should be reducing Seward’s carbon footprint. Some options here are heat pumps, fuel cells, hydro, solar, wind and tidal.
From a cost / benefit perspective, sea source heat pumps, such as the Alaska SeaLife Center’s, deserves a good look. This is an ambitious installation which, when fully integrated, will supply 60% of the SeaLife’s energy needs, the rest of the facility energy coming from electricity. Before the heat pumps, SeaLife was using 132,000 gallons of oil per year. After the heat pumps are fully integrated, oil usage will drop to zero. So no more oil at 4-5 dollars per gallon at half mil per year.
But sea source heat pumps are expensive, complex and to benefit the community there will be substantial infrastructure distribution costs. If this is where the community wants to go, it needs to start planning and drumming up funds now. Heat pumps don’t just show up on the back of a truck, like an oil furnace. There’s a lot of homework to do.
Another possibility is to use a central heat pump to generate hydrogen from sea water and then distribute this to fuel cells in individual homes. This technology is still a bit sketchy but probably workable.
Another point to consider is whether it might be feasible to install a very large heat-pump to service this half of the Kenai Peninsula since we have the seawater source.
So the question is, what steps should we be taking now to make Seward as energy sufficient by 2050?