A Publication of WTVP

Just 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, a sustainability project with central Illinois roots is heating things up. Chena Hot Springs Resort has become world-famous for its displays of wildlife, healing mineral waters, view of the aurora borealis and year-round Aurora Ice Museum, but recently it has also gained attention for its innovations and advancements in green energy.

Though no longer a local, its proprietor, Bernie Karl, got his start as a paperboy in Peoria before becoming a geothermal pioneer in the far north. His daughter, Amber Hopwood, still resides in the area and serves as vice president of the Friends of the Alpha Park Library in Bartonville. Together, the pair is raising money to help the library by raffling off an all-inclusive stay at the resort—a trip valued at around $10,000.

In addition to free airfare, lodging, meals and a variety of Alaskan activities, the winners will enjoy a grand tour of the energy system, which keeps things running smoothly at temperatures ranging from 50 degrees below zero to well into the 90s. The geothermal power unit, installed in 2006, heats all of the resort’s buildings, allows an array of vegetables to grow in greenhouses, and cools its ice museum year-round. Since adopting geothermal power, Karl’s energy costs have dropped from 30 cents/kilowatt-hour (using a diesel generator) to just six cents/kilowatt-hour.

This November, Karl hopes to continue convincing people that “sustainable is attainable,” while also helping the Alpha Park Public Library in his home state.

“We believe in our family that if you can read, you can do anything. My dad is living proof,” says Hopwood, who hopes to raise $10,000 to expand the library and purchase new materials. “It’s a win-win situation… you’re helping a library, and secondly, Chena is the most phenomenal place you’ll ever go… They do amazing things, and my dad is truly trying to help people in way that they can help themselves with sustainability.”

Raffle tickets cost $25 and are being sold at the Alpha Park Public Library. The drawing will take place at 5pm on November 3rd at Kickapoo Creek Winery, where Karl will be in attendance to talk about sustainability and give more details about his work at Chena. For raffle details, call (309) 697-3097, and to learn more about Chena Hot Springs Resort and its green energy system, visit iBi