Iguigig is a tiny riverfront village in rural southern Alaska. It’s unreachable by road and not connected to the region’s electric grid. For home heating and electricity, residents depend on diesel fuel. It has to be shipped in by plane, so it’s expensive.

“So when we think of ways that we can try and save expenses of our community members, usually energy is a frequent topic that’s visited,” says Jonathan Salmon of the Igiugig Village Council.

He says for years, the village has explored an innovative approach for reducing its reliance on diesel.

It’s been testing a renewable energy generation system that’s made by Ocean Renewable Power Company, which is based in Maine. The device harnesses the power of water flowing in the river. It works much like a wind turbine, but with water, not wind, turning the blades.

This year, the device is expected to begin feeding electricity to the village’s new microgrid system for the first time — significantly reducing the need for diesel fuel.

“I feel like all rural areas have this shared commonality of difficulties that we face,” Salmon says.

So he says he hopes that what they’re learning in Igiugig can help other remote villages transition to a more affordable and sustainable energy system.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media