A 576 kW ground-mounted solar microgrid project is headed for the service territory of Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA), a nonprofit utility that serves a rural Alaskan community 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The project is supported by eight three-phase SE 66K inverters, and 720 SolarEdge power optimizers. A total of 1,440 LG Neon 400W bifacial modules were installed, and will be monitored via local SCADA as well as a SolarEdge monitoring platform.
The project was funded by the Northwest Arctic Borough’s village improvement funds, the U.S. Department of Energy Tribal Energy funds, and KEA capital funding, with support from NANA Regional Corp.
Alaska has the fourth-highest energy demand per capita in the U.S., and electricity prices are double the national average. KEA consumes more than 1.2 million gallons of diesel fuel per year for electricity, which costs the association as much as $5 million each year.
Fuel use was supplemented by 66 kW of wind power, but that resource was decommissioned once it reached the end of its useful life. A low-cost alternative to diesel and wind was needed, and solar was selected as the solution.
SolarEdge said KEA will now be 25-30% renewably-powered, and the association will save more than 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel, or about $100,000, annually. SolarEdge said KEA will also have lower maintenance costs by cutting the number of diesel generators it needs to operate.
The project was developed by Alaska Native Renewable Industries (ANRI). With a snowy landscape for more than two thirds of the year, ANRI selected LG bifacial modules to utilize the albedo, or reflected light, from the ground. SolarEdge said that using bifacial modules is expected to give the system a 5% boost in production.
The panels are to be used in conjunction with SolarEdge’s maximum power point tracker (MPPT) at module-level, which the company said will cut losses by about 3% the first year when compared to string inverters. SolarEdge said it also will help KEA cut maintenance costs by using its remote troubleshooting service.