If you happened to be in Chena, Alaska last weekend, you may have attended the third annual Chena Renewable Energy Fair, chowed on some hot dogs barbecued on the hydrogen-powered grill, toured the the geothermal power plant, or visited the Aurora Ice Museum that’s kept cool in the summer using the patented absorption chiller.
Bernie Karl is all about renewable energy. Proprietor of Chena Hot Springs Resort, located 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks and 33 miles off the grid, Bernie acquired the ramshackle resort in 1998 from the state of Alaska. From the very beginning Bernie’s vision was to run his operation using only the abundant thermal energy of the surrounding hot springs.
Despite having more geothermal resources than any other state in the country, Alaska hadn’t developed any of those resources until Bernie’s geothermal power plant came online in 2006. Developed in partnership with United Technologies Corporation, the patented power plant is the lowest temperature geothermal resource used for commercial power production in the world. A step many hope will spur development for low cost geothermal development throughout Alaska and the world.
Featured in Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn’s book Earth the Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming, Bernie is an apparent source of renewable energy himself and a force to be reckoned with. His entrepreneurial frontier spirit has attracted attention, making Chena Hot Springs a test site for the U.S. Department of Energy for future development of geothermal energy.
Bernie’s team at Chena Hot Springs continues to develop ideas in renewable energy at a pace more staid institutions can’t match.
“A big corporation moves slowly, does everything by committee,” says mechanical engineer and space physicist Gwen Holdman, “We just do stuff. If we screw it up, we fix it.”
From ice museums to geothermal power plants to hydrogen hot dogs, Bernie and his crew just keep doing stuff. It’ll be interesting to see what’s on store for next year’s renewable energy fair.
Photo Credit: Popular Mechanics
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