Don’t Believe the Hype!  New Alaska Railbelt Study Doesn’t Pass Scrutiny

Don’t Believe the Hype!  New Alaska Railbelt Study Doesn’t Pass Scrutiny

March 20, 2024

A recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examined Alaska’s Railbelt, and concluded it would best be served by transitioning to 80% renewable energy by 2040.

The study, which has generated immense press from ENGOs and anti-development organizations across the state, concludes that 80% of the grid between Fairbanks to the north and the Kenai Peninsula to the south could be powered by wind and solar, and provide the lowest-cost power.


Even if utility-grade wind and solar was available throughout Alaska, the simple physics of generating power from those sources during extreme weather makes it a fool’s errand to rely on that much power from those intermittent ‘solutions’.

Anyone living in Southcentral Alaska will remember the last week of January this year.  Temperatures plummeted to the mid -20s in Anchorage, and near -50 in parts of the Mat-Su Valley.  The skies were clear, with no measurable wind for nearly a week.

The solar array that is supposed to provide power during the summer to Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) stops working at -13, according to MEA’s executives.  Relying on more of that solution would lead to people freezing to death.

The same would have happened if Anchorage relied on intermittent energy sources.  While there are no utility-grade solar arrays in Alaska’s biggest city, there is a wind farm located just miles from there.  That week, the average output from the 11-turbine farm would have powered less than 500 homes and businesses. 

That’s 0.38% of the 130,000 total customers in the service area. 

Talk about a threat to life, health and happiness.

Until – or if ever – Alaskans can predict when the wind will blow and the sun will shine through the multiple feet of snow to hit the solar panels, rational citizens have a responsibility to push back on seemingly idiotic studies that push risk into their power grid. 

Too much is at stake to take a Lower-48-based laboratory full of eco-warrior bureaucrats at their word.