FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Hundreds of people gathered at Chena Hot Springs for the fifth annual Renewable Energy Fair Sunday.
Unlike Anchorage, the Fairbanks area has been awash in sunshine, which matched the optimism of this event. And since the high cost of energy clouds Alaska's bottom line, some rays of hope are always welcome.
A passion for technology and science and a love of problem-solving are what the fair hopes to keep alive in Alaska. The event attracted many with new ideas to solve some very big problems.
Chena Hot Springs has been experimenting with hydrogen fuel. It has the only hydrogen production facility in the state and generates enough fuel to run one car -- a small step in what some say is the right direction.
Roy McAlister of the American Hydrogen Association suggests we need to learn from nature. Plants take sunlight to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water. They use the hydrogen to make food and release oxygen into the environment.
According to McAlister, we can do the same.
"You can convert any diesel or gasoline engine to operation on hydrogen. Make the engine last longer, produce more power when you need it and it actually cleans the air as it operates," said McAlister.
Hydrogen is economically feasible to produce if you can do it with a renewable resource such as wind, which Alaska has in abundance. The state also has one other important resource.
"Alaskans are do-it-yourselfers and appreciate leadership from do-it-yourselfers, and I found that to be an essential human resource," McAlister said.
One of Alaska's human resources is Bernie Karl, the owner of Chena Hot springs.
"Hydrogen is the future. Why wouldn't you see it? We're the future. I mean actually if you had a crystal ball, you would see Chena Hot Springs in your crystal ball," Karl said.
New technology will become even more attractive if it could someday improve the bottom line.
Sen. Ted Stevens was scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers at the fair. Stevens had attended all four of the previous fairs and had a keen interest in all forms of energy.
Stevens was instrumental in getting the federal funding that was key to developing the Chena Chiller, a reverse refrigeration system that uses hot water to make electricity, at Chena Hot Springs. Stevens created the Denali Commission, which helped to make a federal-private partnership on the Chena Chiller possible.
Contact Rhonda McBride at email@example.com