Solar project in Northwest Arctic towns set to begin next spring

Dec 17, 2020 02:48 PM ET
  • Building and construction is set to begin next spring on a solar battery project in the Northwest Arctic villages of Shungnak as well as Kobuk. It's the most recent renewable project for a region regularly struck by high energy prices.
Solar project in Northwest Arctic towns set to begin next spring
Image: alaskapublic.org

It's constantly been pricey to offer power to rural Alaska. With a lot of areas not falling on the road system, residents are forced to barge as well as fly in gasoline to power generators. There is a state program that decreases power expenses yet with the state's budget plan situation, it's unknown for how long that program will be around.

Edwin Bifelt stated even with state assistance, power in country Alaska remains pricey.

" Even with Power Cost Equalization, individuals see prices anywhere from 20 cents up to 40 to 50 cents a kilowatt-hour, which is 4 or 5 times the national standard," Bifelt claimed.

Bifelt, that grew up in the village of Huslia, is the creator and also CEO of Alaska Native Renewable Industries. The company specializes in providing renewable resource to rural Alaska communities.

ANRI finished up the building and construction of Alaska's biggest rural solar farm in Kotzebue previously this year, a 576-kilowatt project with more than 1,400 solar panels. Combined with the local electric co-op's wind turbines, it's approximated that Kotzebue has to do with 50% powered by renewable resource.

Now, ANRI is acquired with the Northwest Arctic Borough for simply over $2.1 million to build similar varieties in the villages of Shungnak and also Kobuk, the easternmost areas in the borough. Bifelt claimed he expects the selections to lower utility bills in the towns.

" Definitely see a decline in the amount of diesel fuel that they need to fly in annually, yet it's hard to state now what end result it's mosting likely to have for residents in the future," Bifelt said.

Kobuk and also Shungnak incorporated have regarding a 8th the populace of Kotzebue. Bifelt said both new ranges will certainly follow a comparable design to the Kotzebue project, yet they will certainly be a lot smaller sized.

" The tentative layout we have is for about a 38-kilowatt selection in Kobuk as well as a 186-kilowatt variety in Shungnak, I believe," Bifelt said.

Bifelt stated country energy projects aren't brand-new to the region, though his business puts an emphasis on employing citizens to aid with building and construction rather than fly up workers from bigger cities.

" Just to supply some short-term jobs, offer some new abilities for people within the neighborhood associating with renewable resource, and providing education and also experience with solar," Bifelt stated.

Building of the solar arrays should conclude by summertime following year.

Moving on, Bifelt expects country renewable energy will certainly be more important as legislators battle with financing Power Cost Equalization. In 2019, a step-by-step hold-up in the legislature held up those funds, and there have actually been propositions from Gov. Mike Dunleavy and also extra traditional legislators to make use of funds from the program to assist balance the state's shortage.

Bifelt claimed the unpredictability over PCE ought to worry country Alaskans.

" I presume it's something we do not consider sufficient, just because it's been around the past 30-plus years," Bifelt said. "But that knows if it'll be there the following 10, 15 years, and then what circumstance neighborhoods be in then."

Without PCE, Bifelt stated rural Alaska citizens can end up paying double for their energy prices.

Over the next decade, he said investing in solar, wind and also hydroelectric power can conserve rural neighborhoods from potentially drastic walkings in power bills. The even more positive impact to the atmosphere from these renewable resources is an incentive.



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