A solar project in rural Alaska takes aim at sky-high electric bills
A new renewable energy project in the Northwest Alaska village of Buckland
aims to demonstrate solar and wind power’s potential to reduce the region’s sky-high utility costs.
The village-run electric utility is set to switch on three new solar arrays this week, and a new battery system next year.
Boosters say systems like Buckland’s have huge potential to reduce the cost of power in rural Alaska, where electricity prices can be six times the national average and monthly light bills can top $1,000. But major obstacles remain, too, from the technology’s cost to the region’s remoteness.
Buckland, which now makes most of its power with generators fueled by barged-in diesel, is a sort of test case. Once the system is fully functional and linked with preexisting wind turbines, the village expects to be able to shut off its diesel generators for hours at a time during the summer, according to the project’s designers.
“Everybody’s for it – everybody wants to get away from the fuel,” said Erik Weber, who runs the village water plant and has helped with the solar installation. “When things like an energy crisis come up and there’s not a lot of fuel to go around, we can keep going here.” More
Solar array is welcome to Interior: Green energy will take time, let’s have patience
Oct 19, 2018
News-Miner opinion: Coal remains the cheapest form of energy in the Interior, and as such it is likely to remain king in Golden Valley Electric Association’s energy portfolio for years to come. In fact, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new coal-fired plant just went online in late August. The newest technologies have improved coal-fired plant efficiency.
And then on Oct. 12, Golden Valley Electric Association held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its first solar array. The 1,760 panels cover a 2 1/2 acre lot off South Cushman Street. It is capable of producing 563 kilowatts, which is enough to power 71 homes using an average of 660 kilowatt hours a month. It is the largest photovoltaic system in the state.
It’s renewable energy. And we could certainly use every bit of it as possible in Fairbanks. Energy is expensive and our air quality is the worst in the nation at times. But the solar array only generates a fraction of 1 percent of Golden Valley’s total energy portfolio. The installation of this solar array may be small but it is encouraging.
Alaska, in many respects, is behind the Lower 48 when it comes to technology and infrastructure. The lack of fiber-optic internet cables within our borough is an example of that. Sometimes Alaskans must wait patiently while their friends and family down south enjoy new technologies. It’s always been that way. More
State, Local Officials Celebrate Success of Waterfall Creek, King Cove's Second Hydroelectric Facility, during Dedication Ceremony
September 24, 2018
Several state and local officials traveled to King Cove to participate in the city’s dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony of Waterfall Creek, the community’s second hydroelectric facility. Since Waterfall Creek began operating in May 2017, it has produced more than 1.3 MW (megawatts) of energy and has performed remarkably well.
“We are very proud that since 1994, King Cove has been the most remote, productive micro-grid renewable energy community in Alaska,” said King Cove Mayor Henry Mack.
State and local officials who flew to King Cove for the city’s dedication ceremony included: Alaska Senator Lyman Hoffman; Rep. Bryce Edgmon; Barbara Blake, Senior Advisor to Governor Walker; and Aleutians East Borough Mayor Alvin Osterback. The group visited the city’s waterfront, school, new diesel plant, and the new Waterfall Creek hydro facility in addition to the Delta Creek hydro facility.
“What it means to King Cove is they’re moving toward electric energy independence, which is a goal I wish all Alaskans could have,” said Alaska Senator Lyman Hoffman.
“This project is a role model for other communities because every community aspires, to some extent, to have renewable energy,” said Rep. Bryce Edgmon. “I see places like King Cove, Kodiak and Cordova leading the way.” More
New energy projects seek to lower electricity costs in Southeast Alaska
By Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan
New projects are under development throughout the region to help reduce energy costs for Southeast Alaska residents. A panel presented some of those during last week’s Southeast Conference annual fall meeting in Ketchikan.
Jodi Mitchell is with Inside Passage Electric Cooperative, which is working on the Gunnuk Creek hydroelectric project for Kake. IPEC is a non-profit, she said, with the goal of reducing electric rates for its members.
The Gunnuk Creek project will be built at an existing dam.
“The benefits for the project will be, of course, renewable energy for Kake. And we estimate it will save about 6.2 million gallons over its 50-year life,” she said. “Although, as you heard earlier, these hydro projects last forever.”
The gallons saved are of diesel fuel, which currently is used to power generators for electricity.
IPEC operates other hydro projects in Klukwan and Hoonah. Mitchell said they’re looking into future projects, one near Angoon and another that would add capacity to the existing Hoonah project.
Mitchell said they fund much of their work through grants, which helps keep electric rates at a reasonable level. More
Does it pay to install solar panels in Alaska?
For many home or cabin owners, solar has become a cost-effective consideration the last couple years — even in Alaska. The cost savings of installing solar as your primary energy source varies widely on conditions and locations throughout the state.
The question of whether solar is worth the investment, or yields a quick payback time, is dependent largely on how much you now pay for a kilowatt of electricity and the cost of buying the panels. The price of the racks to mount the panels, tracking equipment if you desire to use it and batteries should also be considered in the cost.
Batteries are needed if you want to use the energy you produce. Typically, they are deep cycle and can vary in voltage; most often, several are purchased and strung together. They can be expensive, and they take a fair amount of maintenance. If you are willing to sell the energy to a local utility even though you buy your home energy from that utility, you are wisely using the electrical grid as your “battery” or storage.
In Alaska, the amount the utility pays for your solar-generated energy is going to be only a portion of what you pay for electricity per kilowatt. And that is if your local utility will buy your electricity. That may depend on the utility’s overall load it supplies for other customers.
The amount of solar power you can harness increases with snow-free, clear skies and cold weather. Solar gain decreases for about a month and a half or so before and after Christmas. Depending on the site location, terrain, standing trees, etc., it is possible to receive some solar gain for those three months, yet it will most likely be negligible due to the low arc of the sun. More
EPA to award 1.6 million grant to Northwest, Tribal Entities including TCC
By Julie Swisher Posted: Mon 9:59 PM, Sep 17, 2018
FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Three Northwest and Tribal Entities will be awarded a significant grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A total of 1.6 million dollars has been distributed between two tribes in Washington, and the Tanana Chiefs Conference here locally, as part of a federal initiative to reduce emissions.
The 'Diesel Emissions Reductions Act', or 'DERA' grant awarded to TCC is just under 500 thousand dollars, and will be directed toward replacing older diesel engines and generators. Both Beaver Village and Stevens Village, located in the Yukon Koyukuk census area, will receive the funds.
Project Manager for TCC, Dave Messier, told us how this opened-ended grant was paired with a specific work plan, based on needs in these communities.
He said, "Two of our communities Beaver and Stevens Village have expressed a need to decrease diesel emissions and upgrade their generators so this funding came available and we were able to pair it with some money from the VW Settlement. And so the money that we are receiving from the EPA, will be added to about a hundred thousand dollars we are receiving from the Denali Commission through the Alaska Energy Authority. And that will be used to replace three stationary diesel generators in the community of Beaver and Four Stationary diesel generators in the community of Stevens village." More