HEA holds first energy technology workshops

Conversations at Homer Electric Association (HEA)’s first Energy Technology Workshop on Thursday at Kenai Peninsula College ranged from very practical — increasing home energy efficiency and what to know before investing in solar panels or heat pumps — to the speculative, such as how emerging technologies in cold-climate heat pumps could better suit them for Alaska, or under what conditions an electric car would save money on the Kenai Peninsula.

This year was the first that HEA — the 23,494-member electrical cooperative that supplies power to a majority of Kenai Peninsula residents — hosted such sessions, open to the public, with local energy experts. About 80 attendees signed up, and at least one workshop — given by HEA Director of Power, Fuels and Dispatch Larry Jorgensen on home solar and the utility-scale solar generator HEA plans to finish before the end of 2018 — began with standing room only.

The four workshops replaced the energy fairs that HEA has hosted in the past, which filled high school gymnasiums with energy product vendors and informative displays to give a broad look at energy conservation technologies and practices.

The perspective provided in the workshops was a less broad but much deeper look at four specific energy possibilities: solar power presented by Jorgensen, electric vehicles presented by Kendall Ford salesman Dave Bartelmay, home energy efficiency by representatives of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, and heat pumps presented by Doug Franklin of the Anchorage-based heating, ventilation, and air conditioning vendor Steinbaugh Company.

The workshops on the four subjects were held in three rotating sessions, giving attendees a chance to choose three of interest to them.

Thursday morning’s snow and wind made travel difficult for some HEA members from the south peninsula who wanted to attend the event, though at least a few made the difficult drive from Homer. Among the suggestions that HEA Director of Member Relations Bruce Shelley said he’d received were some wanting the event to be repeated in the south.

“I said it’s the first time out of the box, so not this time, but maybe next year we’ll have the event at both ends (of the peninsula) or at the south end,” Shelley said.

Others asked for HEA to post the handouts, slideshows, and information from the sessions online, or to record or stream audio or video. Shelley said once again there were no plans to do so, though there may be in future versions of the event.

Session topics for future workshops suggested on feedback forms from the event included appliance and window efficiency, wind, hydro, and geothermal power, and HEA’s planned generator burning waste methane from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Landfill.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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