The issue of solar panel reliability has existed since the beginning of the industry, in part because solar panels do not function effectively in cold and snowy conditions. That myth has been debunked time and again as a small but significant solar-plus-storage microgrid project in Alaska is implemented.
Blue Planet Energy has successfully deployed this first-of-its-kind project to assist the residents of Shungnak, a remote community in Alaska above the Arctic Circle. The microgrid was created to address the numerous challenges of operating in extreme conditions and to wean the community off its costly and polluting diesel generator power plant.
The resilient microgrid is comprised of a 225 kW solar array that can meet a large portion of Shungnak’s energy requirements. The system incorporates 12 cabinets of 32 kWh Blue Ion LX battery systems, each of which stores excess energy for later use. The system not only reduces the village’s carbon footprint, but it also significantly reduces the high fuel and maintenance costs associated with running diesel generators in remote Alaska.
The microgrid system is one-of-a-kind in that it allows for a ‘diesel-off’ operation. The system, which uses Ageto’s ARC microgrid controller solution, can automatically coordinate between solar and energy storage to ensure the lowest cost power and communicates with the AVEC power plant on the best times to turn off diesel generation. Even when the sun isn’t shining as brightly during the winter months, the batteries can still be recharged using generators.
Based on $7 to $8 per gallon calculations, this solar-plus-storage system is expected to save 25,000 gallons of fuel per year, or an estimated $200,000 per year in fuel costs. It is also assisting in the development of a framework that can be replicated in other remote communities.
“Producing power in rural Alaska is immensely difficult, between transporting fuel into town by plane or boat and battling temperatures that can freeze generator engines. Milestone projects such as this are an exciting promise to the people of both Alaska and rural communities around the world for an energy resilient future.”Ava Gibson, head of sales for Blue Planet Energy
“Shungnak relied on a diesel-based power system, and many of the children have never known life in the village without the constant hum of diesel in the background or the smell of exhaust fumes. Blue Planet Energy was critical to the success of this project. 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.”Rob Roys, chief innovation officer at Launch Alaska