Alaska’s largest solar farm to go online in coming days
The 8.5-megawatt, 45-acre farm is expected to produce enough energy to power 1,400 homes
HOUSTON, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s been just over a year since Gov. Mike Dunleavy and project leaders broke ground on what is now the largest solar farm in the state of Alaska.
The Houston Solar Farm stretches 45 acres off Hawk Lane near the new Houston High School and is expected to produce enough energy to power approximately 1,400 homes.
The farm is a partnership between Matanuska Electric Association (MEA), the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, CleanCapital, Alaska Energy Authority and Renewable IPP — an Alaskan-owned independent power production company.
Construction on the project began in August 2022 and was completed this month, according to MEA. Julie Estey, senior director of external affairs and strategic initiatives for the Valley-based electric company, said the project aligns with MEA’s desire to diversify sources of energy.
“The big picture — especially with the uncertainty of the natural gas in Cook Inlet — is how do we diversify our energy portfolio so that we can keep producing affordable energy and have it be secure for our members?” Estey said.
According to Estey, about 85% of MEA’s fuel is natural gas, with the other 15% largely coming from renewable hydropower energy. Recently, MEA’s board of directors set a goal to output 50% of its power through renewable energy by the year 2050.
“We’ve had a carbon reduction goal to reduce our carbon by 28% by 2030, and we actually met that goal early,” Estey said. “So the board looked again at what we’re trying to achieve.”
CEO of Renewable IPP Jenn Miller said the project will help meet gaps in local energy demand, as Cook Inlet natural gas projections show declining resources.
“It’s really important for us to start diversifying our energy sources to meet that supply gap with things like solar, wind, hydro,” Miller said. “We need to start building and, really, it’s kind of a new growth area for the state.”
Miller’s company has been working on the Houston Solar Farm project since 2019. Last year, the foundation piles were installed with the 14,400 solar panels getting installed this summer. She said the panels should be on the grid producing energy in the next week or two.
“[What’s] really cool is it’s local generation that goes into the grid and is distributed to the MEA members and will likely get consumed right here in Big Lake and Houston,” Miller said.
Miller said the solar panels are bifacial, meaning the backsides of the panels are able to capture energy from the sun’s reflection off the snow in winter months.
MEA members will not see a cost increase on their bills due to the solar project and the farm is meant to offset the increasing costs of producing power for the company.
On Tuesday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Houston Solar Farm to celebrate the completion of construction.
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