Kongiganak, AK (population 650) is a primarily Yup’ik Eskimo village situated on the Kongiganak River, near Kuskokwim Bay in southwest Alaska.
The community’s microgrid is powered by two 200 kW diesel generators, at a cost of ~60 cents/kW to residents. Heating fuel costs about $5/gallon and consumes about half of household income. In 2010, five 95 kW wind turbines were installed in this often windy community to harness the wind resource and to reduce the fuel consumed for electricity generation. The installation was part of the Chaninik Wind Group formed by neighboring tribal governments in Kongiganak, Kwigilliingok, Tuntutuliak, and Kipnuk after realizing that working together was the only way to survive the increasing fuel costs. Twenty ceramic thermal electric stoves were also installed in community residences to use electricity from excess wind generation and reduce heating fuel costs. The wind turbines offset up to 30 – 40% of the diesel required to meet the community’s base electric load, and the thermal stoves have made a barrel of heating fuel last up to six weeks instead of two. The community attempted to install running water to all homes a few years ago. However, the project was never realized as logistics issues meant digging the pipes under the tundra and risking them freezing by the permafrost. The community members still collect their water from a Village Safe Water treatment plant in barrels, and frugal use of water in the home is employed.