Alaska’s first Tesla Supercharger station opens in Soldotna
SOLDOTNA, Alaska (KTUU) - The owners of the first Tesla Supercharger station in the state of Alaska celebrated the future of renewal energy with a grand opening in Soldotna on April 30.
The Supercharger station features four plugs for Tesla vehicles and supplements an already-existing Destination Charger, which charges electric vehicles at a much slower rate.
Henry Krull owns the station with his wife, Mary Krull, and said the Supercharger station has been open and available to Tesla owners since the middle of last November, but the official opening ceremony was delayed almost six months due to the tragic death of a close friend who was integral to the development of the site.
Derek Leichliter was contracted to work on the project but was killed last fall in a plane crash on Kodiak, just weeks before the Superchargers were scheduled to go online. Leichliter was an electrical contractor who was the proprietor of Legacy Electric on the Kenai Peninsula.
“This project was a big deal for him,” Krull said. “He was very passionate about renewable energy and electric vehicles and he was very excited to be working on this project, and was trying to get awarded the contracts for additional Alaska Tesla Superchargers, and I believe they may have been awarded to him posthumously.”
The official opening ceremony included the unveiling of a large rock emblazoned with a plaque that reads, “This first-in-Alaska Tesla Supercharger station is dedicated to our dear friend and outdoor lover, Derek Leichliter of Legacy Electric, whose passion and support for electric vehicles will forever be part of his legacy.”
Krull owns the land the Superchargers sit on, colloquially known as Whistle Hill. The area features the Addie Camp restaurant, Fresh365 hydroponic farm and Brew@602, which occupies the interior of a nearly 70-year-old Alaska Railroad train car that was retired in 2002.
But it’s the development of a long-term solution to powering electric cars on Alaska’s road that has Krull excited.
“I think it’s particularly important in our state, which was built on oil and gas,” Krull said. “And despite that, there is a transition going on here in Alaska, just like in the Lower 48, to renewable energy sources and cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, and there really is a trend towards electric cars now.”
The Whistle Hill development sits on the hill leading into Soldotna proper on the Sterling Highway, and the Tesla Supercharger station is just the next chapter in revitalizing and bringing a modern touch to the area.
There are over 30,000 Supercharger stations around the world, according to Tesla’s website. Krull said he was told that there are over 800 Tesla’s in the state, a far cry from just six years ago — Krull said when he first purchased his car in 2016, it was just the fifth Tesla to be owned in Alaska.
Krull had previously installed three Destination Chargers a year after buying his own Tesla, which the company itself offered to send him.
“As the Tesla population began to grow, there was a talk among Tesla owners through Facebook forums primarily, about getting Tesla to put in Supercharger locations,” Krull said. “And again, that would just open up the state for fast charging and you know, driving from you know, Soldotna or Homer or all the way up to Fairbanks potentially.”
Krull said once the company felt like there were enough Tesla owners in the state, the feasibility of installing the first Supercharger station became a reality.
“Of course, I couldn’t contain myself and I said, ‘Hey, let me know, I’ll do whatever you need,’” Krull said.
Tesla asked the Krulls for space on their property to work on the installation, then got to work putting in the infrastructure.
“My wife and I, the developers of Whistle Hill, really thought that that would be a big draw to our development in getting Tesla owners to come and charge at our location and maybe visit our business facilities up there,” Krull said. “And likewise, Tesla thought it was a very good fit, because that’s the kind of place they like to put superchargers is places where Tesla owners can get out, stretch legs, get something to eat, something to drink.”
The addition of Supercharger station is a gamechanger for Alaska — Destination Chargers are able to give a Tesla approximately 30 miles for each hour of charging, while Superchargers extend that range to a whopping 250 miles for an hour of charge, Krull said.
Tesla claims that one hour of charging can give a car 800 miles in ideal conditions. That mileage varies depending on weather conditions; in cold temperatures, batteries don’t hold a charge as well and therefore won’t last as long, just as a standard car battery in a gasoline-powered vehicle will lose charge sooner in cold weather.
Krull said the superchargers will provide a big boost to the renewable energy industry on the Kenai Peninsula. According to Tesla, the average driver can save over $2,000 a year (using current gas prices in Alaska).
“I think it’s going to be critically important for us to make the transition,” Krull said. “Alaska being the size that it is, needs to have significant infrastructure because ideally, these fast chargers are available every 100 to 150 miles. That’s what really makes driving across the state possible.”
The electricity providing the Superchargers on Whistle Hill currently comes from the Homer Electric Association grid, Krull said, powered by natural gas and wind turbines, but he hopes to soon switch over to solar power. Construction for those solar panels is expected to begin in a month, he said, and could be ready to turn on by this fall.
Krull also said he’s planning to develop a large-scale solar farm in Sterling that he hopes one day can provide power to about 5,000 homes in the area. Krull expects that project to be completed in three or four years.
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