Solar power in rural Alaska may just work

Sun on a typical Anchorage day in the winter, Alaska, USA

Reducing rural Alaska’s dependence on diesel

Alaska is known for a few things, but near the top of any list would be the cold, dark winters associated with the state, especially its northern regions. So, as far as solar energy goes, Alaska is out, right? Maybe not.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently published a report with a title, Solar Energy Prospecting in Rural Alaska, that is pretty self explanatory. The study examined the viability of utilizing solar energy to reduce diesel dependence in rural regions of Alaska.

While much of the state, primarily the northern latitudes, does receive minimal to no sunlight in the winter months, many regions of Alaska also receive prolonged periods of sunlight in the summer months. All told, researchers concluded that, despite the obvious challenges associated with depending on solar energy in the dark winter months, there are several factors that support the use of solar energy in particular locations across the state.

Much variance

Simply put, Alaska is a huge state. This fact alone means that claiming the state as either a good or bad candidate for solar energy would be a mistake without further investigation.

According to the DOE:

— The Arctic and some interior regions of Alaska could expect high solar production in the months of March through August. These same regions would experience with a steep decline in the winter and decreased predictability in the months near the beginning and end of that range.

— Southeast and southwest regions of Alaska would have more of a gradual transition from sunny spring and summer months into darker fall and winter months, as opposed to a quick, steep dropoff.

All told, after thorough analysis, the DOE feels that solar energy “can be economically competitive in many remote Alaskan villages” and could also produce “a number of benefits, including reducing a village’s dependency on diesel fuel, improving electricity price predictability, providing local environmental benefits, and more.”

Renewable energy in the arctic

Recently, six organizations banded together in a joint effort to help remote Arctic communities develop renewable energy projects and work to reduce dependence on diesel power.

Largely, the effort is looking to follow in the footsteps of work that has already been done in Alaska in recent years. The state of Alaska has an annual $50 million renewable energy budget and has spent more than $271 million since 2008 specifically on projects that work to offset diesel fuel use.

Source → U.S. Department of Energy
Photo Credit: Photo by Wonderlane / CC BY 2.0