Powerful Solutions: Engineering Excellence at CRW


The Alaska Engineering Societies recently awarded the CRW Engineering Group the 2017 Engineering Excellence Grand Award and People’s Choice Award for the Quinhagak (kwin-uh-hawk) Heat Recovery Project. The American Public Works Association, Alaska Chapter, also selected the project for its 2016 Innovative Energy Solutions award.

Quinhagak, Alaska is a community of 700 residents located 80 miles southwest of Bethel on the coast of the Bering Sea. Like many rural villages, it is faced with constant fuel and energy challenges that can impact residents’ standard of living. The Quinhagak Heat Recovery Project provided a solution that reduced energy expenditures, helped prevent fuel oil shortages, decreased the community’s carbon footprint, and in turn made the water and sewer system less costly for the residents. CRW designed and managed the construction of the project.

Quinhagak’s heat recovery system success was a collaborative effort between the CRW design team, Alaska Native Tribal Consortium (ANTHC), Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC), Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative, Alaska Energy Authority, and the Environmental Protection Agency.  ANTHC was CRW’s primary client for the project.  CRW provided mechanical, electrical, civil and structural engineering design services and managed construction of the project.  In addition, CRW closely partnered with the City of Quinhagak and the Native Village of Kwinhagak, seeking their input throughout design and utilizing local labor crews to construct the project. 

The generators at Alaska Village Electric Cooperative’s (AVEC) power plant produce residual heat, a huge potential energy source that, prior to this project, went unused. By recovering this heat, an inexpensive energy source could be used to save thousands of dollars in heating costs each year. The heat recovery system is constructed with high-temperature plastic arctic pipe, which is atypical for a heat recovery design. The system is remarkably efficient and was purposely designed for ease of maintenance and simple controllability. It consists of a 1,600-foot heat recovery glycol loop that runs from the AVEC power plant to the Utility Building and Washeteria. Commissioned in 2015, it is expected to replace the fuel needed at the Utility Building in its entirety, a savings of approximately $50,000 dollars annually. This design has become the basis of a prototypical approach used in other rural communities.

The Quinhagak Heat Recovery Project helped the community address the ever-present challenges of high energy expenses, contributed to increased energy security, and positively impacted the community’s overall quality of life.