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Students study energy issues in Iceland

Fairbanks, Alaska—A recent trip to Iceland as part of the Institute of the North’s Iceland Policy Tour allowed four University of Alaska Fairbanks students to explore energy technology and policy question through the lens of another circumpolar nation.

The students will speak about their experience at a community lecture Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Blue Loon in Fairbanks.

The students were selected through a competitive process and worked with mentors from the UAF Alaska Center for Energy and Power to conduct research through interviews and site visits. They traveled with a delegation that included 30 Alaska industry representatives, policy and community leaders, and legislators. The five-day visit was designed to help participants better understand Iceland’s energy technology and policy, as well as the corresponding economic and infrastructure development, and how their experiences could apply to Alaska.

The delegation visited the Hellisheidi geothermal plant, Karahnjukar 600-megawatt hydropower plant and Alcoa aluminum smelter, a data center, a community district heating system, and a mushroom production facility. In addition, the team met with the Ministries of Finance, Industry and Innovation, and Foreign Affairs as well as President Grimsson, the U.S. ambassador to Iceland, the U.S.-Icelandic Chamber, and several other Icelandic government representatives.

“As a geology graduate student, traveling to Iceland, rather than just reading about geothermal development … in a textbook or paper, allowed me to gain a much broader understanding about all the factors that affect a project, especially through the eyes of Icelanders who depend on geothermal energy like Alaskans depend on petroleum," said Josh Miller, a master’s degree student in geology at UAF.

The group also focused on building stronger relationships between Iceland and Alaska, including closer ties between University of the Arctic counterpart institutions at UAF and university centers in Reykjavik, Akeureyri and Isafjordur. The University of the Arctic is a coalition of universities, colleges and other organizations that focus on education and research in the North.

“It was exciting to collaborate with the Institute of the North and include students in the tour, both to gain new perspectives and to develop a deeper understanding of policy and technical areas of interest to Alaskans,” said Gwen Holdmann, ACEP director and student mentor.

The student participants were: Miller; Julie Emslie, who is seeking a master’s degree in Alaska Native studies and rural development; Chris Pike, who is seeking a master’s degree in appropriate technology with a focus on district heating systems; and Dominique Pride, who is seeking a doctorate in natural resource and sustainability.

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