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“The energy is collected from the solar panels and stored in battery banks to be used when necessary. When the batteries run low, the generator will kick in and provide power,” Kuentzel says. “This is where people see the cost savings. If you only have to run your generator for a few hours a day—as opposed to 24 hours a day—you are consuming a lot less fuel and the cost savings can be significant, especially in rural areas where fuel costs are so high.” While not always commercially viable, some companies in Alaska are making solar energy work for them. Kenai Fjords Tours on Fox Island installed a solar power system that includes solar panels, batteries and inverters to offset their diesel generator usage. During the company’s busy summer months when they used to run the diesel generator 24 hours a day, Kuentzel, who helped Kenai Fjords Tours design their system, says they were able to reduce their diesel generation usage by at least two-thirds. “The cost benefit payback for that company was less than a year.” It has only been since June 2010 that individuals with wind and solar energy systems have been able to connect to the electrical grid in Alaska under what is known as “net metering.” Approved in October 2009 by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska, net metering regulations only apply to electric utilities that are economically regulated and sell more than 5 million kWh a year, of which Alaska has 10. According to Kuentzel, connecting to the grid is not only a great safety mechanism to ensure stable energy flow to the power box, but it provides an outlet for extra energy being generated by private parties to be purchased by the local electric company to supplement the energy needs of a community. “From a grid-tie perspective, the utilities have expended a lot of effort to arrive at guidelines and criteria that will permit safe and functional connection to the grid at each of the distributed generator renewable energy sites,” says Robert Seitz, PE, an electrical engineer based in Anchorage.
PO Box 71249, Fairbanks AK 99707 • (907) 452-1151 • www.gvea.com
A leader in providing wind energy technology to Alaska, Kirk Garoutte, owner of Susitna Energy Systems, has
www.akbizmag.com • Alaska Business Monthly • April 2012
Published on Apr 1, 2012
Published on Apr 1, 2012
Alaska Business Monthly’s 2012 Corporate 100 annual special section begins on page 86. Top citizens of industry are highlighted in this annu...