Alaska is the largest U.S. state by area and the most sparsely populated. With diminishing oil reserves and residents in extremely rural areas reliant on diesel fuel for power, it is surprising how little solar energy provides power to Alaskans. While one deterrent to relying on solar may be the lack of sun in the winter, particularly in northern areas, they also have an equal number of days of sunshine. According to the Department of Energy, annual insolation and thus, power production per capacity, is similar to Germany, which has been a leader in worldwide solar power use.
Another Alaskan solar installation was recently completed north of the Arctic Circle in the village of Shungnak, where residents had become accustomed to burning diesel fuel for its electricity.
A solar-plus-battery energy storage project funded by the Department of Agriculture and the Northwest Arctic Borough is changing how the village sources its electricity. With equipment developed by Blue Planet Energy, the solar and battery project forms a microgrid that is designed to meet the numerous challenges of operating in an extreme climate.
A 225 kW solar array offsets much of the village’s energy needs, which generally ranges between 200 kW and a peak of 300 kW. LG 405 W NeON 2 bifacial solar modules were selected for the array. The microgrid is intelligently designed to operate and supply power in times where diesel generation would be most expensive.
“Thanks to the energy storage system, we can turn the diesels off but keep the lights on in the community. It also gives the local utility the ability to run on 100% clean energy for hours at a time,” said Rob Roys, CIO, Launch Alaska.