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Saving Clams in the Halibut Capital of the World

December 20, 2011 - 10:44am

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Homer, population 5,364, known far and wide for its importance to Alaska's commercial fishing industry, spent $847,000 to conduct an initial energy audit and implement energy efficiency improvements that will drop the city's energy bill by $100,000 annually -- a reduction of approximately 14 percent. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Homer, population 5,364, known far and wide for its importance to Alaska's commercial fishing industry, spent $847,000 to conduct an initial energy audit and implement energy efficiency improvements that will drop the city's energy bill by $100,000 annually -- a reduction of approximately 14 percent. | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Alaska probably has more well-known small cities than any other state due to its awe inspiring scenery and rising popularity as a tourist destination. Nome, Sitka, Kodiak, and Ketchikan are all towns with fewer than 10,000 residents that are known the world over.

The same is true for the city of Homer, population 5,364, known far and wide for its importance to the commercial fishing industry and the outright “Halibut Capital of the World.” Homer is also the homeport of the F/V Time Bandit, one of the boats featured in the popular Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch.

In Homer, where commercial and sport fishing constitute a major segment of the local economy, the concepts of energy efficiency and sustainability are easy to understand. A sustainably managed marine environment is necessary to maintain a healthy supply of fish and seafood year after year and decade after decade. Likewise, any local efficiency effort help ensure a healthy environment that will not be contaminated by pollutants.

In 2010, Homer was awarded a sub-grant for $227,000 from the Alaska Energy Authority using funds from the state‘s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In total, Homer officials spent $847,000 to conduct an initial energy audit and implement energy efficiency improvements.

The city selected Siemens Industry, Inc., to complete an energy audit and set upon fulfilling the recommendations with local contractors.

As of November 2011, the city has completed a variety of energy efficiency improvements, including: lighting upgrades in the harbor, airport terminal, police station, and sewer treatment plant. The energy cost savings from the lighting upgrades are estimated to surpass the cost of their installation in 10 years compared to eight years for the rest of the Homer upgrades.

Other improvements include equipment motor replacements at the raw water pump station and sewer treatment plant, as well as heating system control modifications at the city public works facility. The Fish Dock cranes, which are vital to local fishing boats, are also being made more cost effective with energy efficient electrical transformers.

Carey S. Meyer, the Homer Public Works Director, said the audit made possible by the grant identified many more energy conservation opportunities than they had expected, motivating the city to establish additional sources of funding.

From August 2009 to July 2010, the city spent $759,535 on electricity and fuel for the facilities undergoing energy efficiency improvements. After the planned energy efficiency improvements are completed by the end of 2011, the city estimates that their energy bill for the facilities will be reduced by approximately $100,000 annually, a reduction of approximately 14 percent.

“Without the grant, the city would not have seen the full range of opportunities that were available to reduce energy costs and make our community more sustainable,” Meyer said.

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