Pitney talks nuclear energy, minerals, and drone education programs during Southeast Conference

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - University of Alaska Interim President addressed the Southeast Conference mid-session summit Tuesday.

    Pitney said of their budget situation.

    "This year, for the first year in nine years, we are starting with a small operating budget increase put in by the governor. We also are focused on a few very targeted workforce and economic development area requests. One is in the health arena which is huge. The other one is in strategic mining and minerals. We put in a request for mariculture funding, also alternative energy."

    The mention of alternative energy spurred a question from Connie Hulbert, the president, and general manager of Alaska Electric Light and Power in Juneau, on exactly what the university is pursuing.

    "One aspect is looking at the small nuclear microreactors and their viability in the state. And so these are essentially a self-contained nuclear battery, and how we could deploy those throughout the state to meet some of our energy needs. Right now the pricing on those models are between nine cents and 33 cents a kilowatt-hour. We have rules in our state that make deployment of that new technology pretty difficult," she said. "And then on the smaller microgrid efficiency and development, So as you know, it's all of our communities are isolated on a microgrid and we have more technology and expertise about having an efficient microgrid around but how do we introduce more alternative energy into those microgrids."

    On another subject, Pitney said the university is also pursuing drone development.

    "We have the opportunity to have commercial use of drones earlier than anywhere in the nation, but we've gone to work through the 'beyond line of sight' use of drones. But can you imagine what transporting freight via drones for mining could do for our state for our economy from a fishing game perspective? to do animal counts, for fish counts, just tremendous opportunity. If we can commercialize those. Takes a lot of work nationally to get the FCC and FAA on board. The pieces are aligning, interest is aligning and look very forward to that."

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