Technologies and systems that make cities better for people:

Climate Solutions Living Lab

Infrastructure to promote energy independence, community sustainability and climate justice in rural Alaska.

Assist in the expansion of Shishmaref, an Alaska Native community facing the impact of anthropogenic climate change, to a new site.

A proposal for the design, funding and siting of a hybrid wind-diesel renewable microgrid, to create energy independence and broad sustainability benefits for Shishmaref.
Harvard Law School (HLS)  Climate Solutions Living Lab
Wendy Jacobs, instructor
Willow Latham (GSD+HKS), Sidra Fatima (GSD), Paavani Garg (HLS), Mo Earley (HKS+Tuck) and Darya Minovi (HSPH), team members Spring 2018


The Alaska Native community of Shishmaref faces the impact of anthropogenic climate change and global warming. The combined effect of permafrost thaw, increased storm surge and coastal erosion have caused continual land loss for a community situated on a slim barrier island along the Bering Strait in Northwest Alaska. Today, Shishmaref is in danger of falling into the sea.

The community, converted to static settlement as part of historic relationship with the US, most recently the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, continues a fishing- and subsistence-based way of life. Access to the sea is paramount. Expanding Shishmaref to the less vulnerable location of West Tin Creek Hills on the mainland, however, will require signifcant captial expenditure to build new housing and infrastructure. Unfortunately, limited funds are available to support the community as it expands.

As part of an interdiscplinary team in Harvard Law School’s Climate Solutions Living Lab — a course that brings together graduate students from across Harvard University — I helped research a proposal for a hybrid wind-diesel microgrid, intended to provide renewable energy for Shishmaref’s future location and needs. The project aims to identify unique sources of funding, including the sale of greenhouse gas emission offsets to unregulated entities, to enable energy independence, sustainability and broad public and social benefits for Shishmaref. 



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