The 576-kilowatt project in Kotzebue is the second largest in the state, next to the Willow Solar Farm in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
I read this sentence and thought, “Huh? Second largest solar array in the state? In Kotzebue? WOW! Latitude 67, 2 degrees north of Fairbanks! Operators of the new facility anticipate at least seven months of power generation annually, helping to replace aging wind turbines and offsetting the use of some diesel generation.
With solar equipment costs plummeting and efficiencies increasing, cost recovery has dropped enough to make these projects viable in northern villages. As battery storage improves, a 7 month solar season will soon stretch into the ‘diesel season’, allowing even shorter cost recovery and the need for even less diesel.
The company (that installed the panels) is based out of the Interior village of Huslia, which, like Kotzebue, is off the road system, but about ten times smaller in population. Founder and CEO Edwin Bifelt worked on a similar solar project in the neighboring village of Hughes, which has a population of about 75. His next bid is east of Kotzebue in Shungnak.