Solar energy in Alaska
Although Alaska’s northern location presents the challenge of having minimal solar energy during the long winter when energy demand is greatest, solar energy fulfills an important role in space heating and off-grid power generation. The largest amount of solar-electric generation in Alaska comes from the Golden Valley Electric Association’s Sustainable Natural Alternatives Program (SNAP). Members of the electrical coop install their own renewable energy producing systems, the vast majority of which are solar. Non-producing members can choose to donate to an escrow account to support such renewable energy development. The donations are used to pay the producers of the renewable energy. Launched in 2005, the SNAP program is available to systems with a generation capacity of 25 kW or less. GVEA also operates a solar thermal hot water heating system at the Denali Education Center in Denali National Park. The project consists of 36 flat panel solar thermal collectors that offset electricity and propane required to heat water for 13 cabins and other buildings at the facility, saving Denali Education Center about $7,000 annually. To date this is the only solar thermal project funded through the Alaska Renewable Energy Fun
In addition to solar thermal, some Alaskan communities are starting to incorporate solar PV to offset their fuel consumption. In 2012 Alaska Village Electric Cooperative installed a 10kW solar PV system in the village of Kaltag (pop. 190) to reduce the community’s use of diesel fuel at the local powerhouse. In its first year of operation the solar array produced about 8,200 kWh, saving Kaltag residents over $1,700 in diesel fuel for FY13. Up until 2015, this was the only solar PV system that had been funded through the Alaska Renewable Energy Fund. Now, the Eagle Solar PV project has been commissioned by AP&T, making it the second REF-funded solar PV project in Alaska.