Clean Power

Published on December 15th, 2012 | by Jake Richardson


Even Northern Alaska Has Solar Power Potential

December 15th, 2012 by  


It’s a weekday afternoon in December and the Kotzebue Electric Association website says the ambient temperature is -22 Fahrenheit. This extremely low temperature might suggest to some that solar power is hardly feasible in this village located 33 miles above the Arctic Circle. The Kotzebue Electric Association is responsible for the energy supply in the town of about 3,200 residents. Most of them are Native American, and the Inupiat people may have lived in the area since the 15th century. (Another term for this culture is Qikiktagrukmiut.)

The association determined they would try six different solar thermal systems in elder homes. Three of them are for domestic hot water heating and the others are for a combination of domestic hot water heating and hyronic base board heating. Elder homes may have been the first selected in order to provide renewable, affordable energy to them for free or at low cost. On the Native Village of Kotzebue website, respect for elders is listed as one of their core values. If you want to see some images of their solar thermal systems, see the Photo Gallery.

Though temperatures in Alaska are famous for being very low in winter, their summer season sees some extremely long days. For example, June 20 is the longest day with 24 hours of sunlight. (The shortest day, December 21 has less than two hours). So the next time someone tells you solar power can only work in places with the greatest amounts of sunlight, tell them about Kotzebue, a small village in northern Alaska.

Image Credit: KEA

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About the Author

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Google Plus.

  • newstemp

    The arcticle (approx. pun intended) only reports that 6 systems are being tested, without reporting any results. “So the next time someone tells you solar power can only work in places with the greatest amounts of sunlight,” tell them that six systems are being tested in Kotzebue, a small village in northern Alaska, and that hopefully at least one of them will work satisfactorily.

    • Evacuated tube systems like the picture will boil water in the middle of the winter in Maine.

      The key to Solar is remembering that if you get benefit from it ten months a year, it’s a good idea.

      The Solar Hot Air collector I’m planning will probably run only a few hours a week in December, but the benefits during the Spring and Fall are going to be nice.

      I’m still noodling over a use for super-hot air during July; air conditioning would be ideal but would require quite an investment.

  • Ronald Brak

    And there’s no reason why Alaska and other high latitude places can’t use solar PV. Yes, the panels will have to be at a steep angle, but that will help keep the snow off them.

  • EnergyInsight

    No surprise that solar works in Alasaka as Germany is the world leader in installed capacity with almost 25,000 megawats and their solar resource is about the equivalent of Alaska. The rest of the US is far richer is solar resources, but has only built one-quarter of that in the Germany (1/16th of Germany on a per capita basis). We need to get with the program.

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