Students attend sustainable energy conference


Photo by Emily Tomlinson

GILA students Haley Long, Kolby Korthuis, and Devon Heckman at the ATCEM conference in Anchorage.

By EMILY TOMLINSON, staff writer

Four students, including myself, recently attended the ATCEM Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management conference in Anchorage with natural resource management and sustainable energy teacher Tim Kalke and cultural arts teacher Freda Beasley to learn how to become involved in the career field and becoming advocates for environmental issues in our communities.

Mr. Kalke is also the general manager of SEGA (Sustainable Energy for Galena, Alaska), which manages the biomass project on the GILA campuses is used to heat the buildings during the school year.

“My expectation for this trip is to expose the students to the environmental issue going on in the state of Alaska,” said Mr. Kalke. “I hope that the students learn and see the opportunities there are in this career field…The students were allowed to come because it is a great opportunity for them to learn about what’s going on in their backyards.”

Mr. Kalke said he was invited to ATCAM to share the project details and challenges that are being faced with the biomass project in Galena.

There are about 260 students who attend classes on the GILA campus, plus several dozen residence hall staff and support staff who live there.
During Mr. Kalke presentation of the biomass project he covered the background of the GILA campus and the reasons why we needed to create SEGA.

Haley Long, Devon Heckman, Kolby Korthius, along with myself and Ms. Beasley, attended the presentation. The workshop was three days long and was held in the Hilton hotel in Anchorage.

The expectation for the students was to write down at least 12 brief summaries of the presentation we attended.

On the first day, we got our name tags and a guide of what presentations are going on in what room at what time then we went to the ballroom where the opening ceremony was held.

We attended several presentations on the first day. On the second day, we watched a show re-enacting various Native songs and music.

Before SEGA started, the GILA campus was the former Galena Air Base. When the Air Force left, they gave their remaining fuel to the school, but replacing that fuel would have been expensive.

The Galena biomass energy project was created to provide the GILA campuses with an affordable fuel source after the fuel left form the Air Force was almost depleted. After doing a comparative analysis, they found that the cheapest and the most convenient for the GILA campuses was to use wood boilers and replace the steam pipes with hot water pipes.

The City of Galena and Louden Tribal Council came together and formed a partnership called SEGA to develop a wood-based biomass heat project for the GILA campus. The plan was to lower the amount of fuel the GILA campus needed. The biomass project was installed the fall of 2016.

If you look around the GILA campus, you will see the black tar-covered pipes. The pipes are what carries the hot water and heat to each building and returns again to the boilers.