Three utility workers stand alongside equipment and a snowmobile in a snow-covered landscape. A tree branch bends under the weight of heavy snow behind them.

Utility workers in Fairbanks, Alaska, often deal with snowstorms that can cause lengthy power outages. A partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory aims to help increase the city's resilience with renewable energy. Photo provided by Golden Valley Electric Association 

Communities can plan their clean energy transition with award-winning software that helps them choose an energy strategy specifically designed to address their needs.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with support from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), developed the Simulation and Emulation for Advanced Systems (SEAS) software and used it with the electric utility that serves the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, to plan and implement the transmission and distribution of clean energy technologies.

Fairbanks is a remote city with high energy costs and aging energy infrastructure. Snowstorms have caused lengthy power outages, bringing daily life to a potentially dangerous halt. Fairbanks officials understood that integrating renewable energy into its electric grid would increase the city’s resilience, especially as they plan to retire a coal plant. They received support from NREL to validate their plans as the pilot project in EERE's Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) program.

C2C connects local governments, electric utilities, community  groups, and others with experts from the national laboratories to help deploy clean energy systems that reflect community priorities. To help Fairbanks, a team from NREL went to work with the city's utility. There, they used SEAS to de-risk different energy scenarios that encompass buildings, transportation, renewable energy resources, and the grid. Watch the utility's chief executive officer discuss the process in this short video:

Video Url
Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) is an innovative technical assistance program that connects local governments, tribes, community-based groups, and utilities with national laboratory experts to advance clean energy concepts to implementation. Through the program, experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory created a tailored approach to assist Golden Valley Electric Association to to evaluate and de-risk their transition to clean energy options.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

"Ultimately, communities across the United States will make the decisions that determine what the future energy system looks like," says EERE Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alejandro Moreno. "Tools like the SEAS software and the broader C2C program are critical ways EERE can help those communities choose options that work best for them as they transition to cleaner, healthier, and more affordable energy systems."

In 2023, SEAS won an R&D 100 Award, a prominent industry-wide recognition of new products, processes, materials, and software from around the world. Using SEAS, NREL and Fairbanks determined they could add substantial amounts of wind power to the grid. They also used SEAS to assess battery systems for energy storage. As they planned energy scenarios, local leaders and NREL staff used the lab's Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) platform to simulate and study a virtual representation of the Fairbanks power system to evaluate the impact of adding new technologies to it. SEAS is a critical component of ARIES and can create virtual models like this for any U.S. community.

Today, the city of Fairbanks is on track to meet its electricity demand with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

If your community could benefit from technical assistance in transitioning to clean energy, learn more about C2C and sign up for updates.