Alaska's Largest Rural Solar Project Nears Completion in Kotzebue

Alaska's Largest Rural Solar Project Nears Completion in Kotzebue

Kotzebue, around 30 miles above the Arctic Circle, is home to the state’s second-largest solar panel installation.

Kotzebue Electric Association's 576-kilowatt bifacial solar project began in May, and a locally hired crew has since clocked in ten-hour days, six days a week. They hauled 1,440 400-watt solar panels across uneven tundra and installed the final panel on June 18.

“The solar panels are even generating power through midnight and 1 a.m.,” says KEA’s Matt Bergan. “There are no moving parts, they are just pushing electrons.”

The location of the solar farm was strategic. KEA removed eight old 66 kilowatt AOC wind turbines and installed the same power rating in solar panels.

“Over a year, the wind turbines would likely produce twice the amount of energy as the solar panels, but solar requires far less maintenance,” adds Bergan.

KEA plans to install another 500 kW of solar panels in the coming years.

The project was funded mostly locally by the Northwest Arctic Borough’s village improvement funds, Kotzebue Electric Association capital funds, and U.S. Department of Energy tribal energy funds.

The contractor was Alaska Native Renewable Industries, led by Edwin Bifelt from Huslia.

The largest project in the state is still Renewable IPP’s Willow Solar Farm in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Listen to the story on Alaska Public Radio.


Locally hired laborers wire solar panels. (Photo by Tiffany Creed, KOTZ – Kotzebue)