Alaska is THE state for solar activity… if you’re talking about the Aurora Borealis (or the northern lighters). The wild, dancing colors in the night sky are the result of the sun’s molten flyaways being absorbed into our atmosphere before it reached Earth.
So it’s a bit ironic that the state with seemingly the closest relationship to the sun doesn’t have more state incentives for investing in solar energy production.
It’s one of few states that haven’t passed a renewable energy standard, a mandate that a specific percentage of its power must come from renewable resources by a specific date.
But with a closer look at Alaska, it’s easy to understand why the state has been slow to promote alternative energy use. It’s the biggest state in the country. Alaskans joke that you could cut their state in half and make Texas the third biggest. The vastness of the state and its sparse population make it difficult to get energy from one place to another. The truth is that there are many Alaskans who use renewable energy sources. But they do it because they have to in most cases.
Aside from infrastructure issues, there are issues with the climate and sunlight in Alaska. The sun activity varies dramatically between southern Alaska, where summer days are 12 hours long and winter days are fewer than six to northern Alaska where summer days are almost 22 hours and winter ones are just a couple hundred dusky minutes.
Still, many an Alaskan will offer testimony that they have installed solar and it works, even during those months of stubby winter days.
The primary reason Alaska hasn’t completely embraced renewable energy subsidies, incentives, and rebates is perhaps that it doesn’t need to.
Alaska is extremely rich in other natural resources. It’s one of the nation’s top coal and natural gas producers. And it is the country’s second largest oil producer. Alaska accounts for one fifth of the United States’ oil production. Prudhoe Bay, the country’s largest oil well, is responsible for 8 percent of the nation’s petroleum.
In 2001 the Alaska legislature voted not to consider new energy sources because members said it wouldn’t be cost effective.
Today, however, there are some government programs, like a state grant program, a performance-based incentive, and a low-interest rate loan program, as well as a number of programs sponsored by local utilities.
State Grant Program
State Loan Program
State Rebate Program
Utility Rebate Program
Rules, Regulations & Policies
Building Energy Code
Solar Access Law/Guideline
Related Programs & Initiatives
The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC) provides a wide range of information and resources to enable the use of alternative fuels and other petroleum-reduction options, such as advanced vehicles, fuel blends, idle reduction and fuel economy. The AFDC site offers a database of state and federal laws and incentives related to alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, fuel efficiency, and other transportation-related topics.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Green Power Network provides news and information on green power markets and activities, including opportunities to buy green power. This site provides state-by-state information on green power marketing and utility green power programs. In addition, the site lists marketers of renewable energy credits (RECs), also known as green tags or renewable energy certificates, which represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Through this program, weatherization service providers install energy-efficiency measures in the homes of qualifying homeowners free of charge. The WAP program web site offers a state-by-state map of opportunities, projects and activities.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America site provides state-by-state information on wind projects and activities, including wind working groups, validated wind maps, anemometer loan programs, small wind guides, state-specific news, wind for schools, workshops and web casts.
|Program Type||State Loan Program|
|Technologies||Photovoltaics, Solar Hot Water Heating, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Wind Energy, Municipal Solid Waste|
|Amount||Varies per project|
|Required Documentation||Completed program application|
|Official Web Site||http://akenergyauthority.org/programsloan.html|
Local governments, regional and village corporations, village councils, and independent power producers are eligible for these loans. The loans were created by the Alaska state legislature and are administered by the Alaska Energy Authority.
The program aims to provide low-interest rate loans to small-scale power production facilities, conservation facilities, and fuel storage facilities that want to develop or upgrade energy efficient or energy-producing facilities.
Interest rates depend on the life of the project and range from tax-exempt rates on the high end to 0 percent on the low end.
|Program Type||State Grant Program|
|Technologies||Basically, any renewable energy system you can think of|
|Amount||Varies foe each technology and system|
|Required Documentation||Completed application|
|Official Web Site||http://www.akenergyauthority.org/RE_Fund.html|
The Alaska State Legislature approved grant funding for renewable energy projects in 2008. The fund is overseen by the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), which makes approval recommendations to the legislature twice a year.
The AEA is now accepting applications for round IV of its grant funding. A wide range of projects, headed by a wide range of agencies, is eligible for the funding. The AEA typically awards $50 million a year to eligible projects, which can include anything from feasibility studies done by governments or tribal associations, to a solar installation at a private residence.
This year, the AEA has said that it will prioritize projects that promise to benefit the most people. The agency has received more than 320 applications over the last three funding cycles and has recommended grant approvals to almost half of the projects.
The AEA doe not control the grant funding, but does review the applications and make recommendations, which are typically approved, to the legislature.
While matching funds are not required, the AEA does look upon them favorable when considering projects.
|Program Type||Performance-based Incentive|
|Technologies||Photovoltaics, Solar Hot Water Heating, Wind energy, Small Hydroelectric|
|Amount||Maximum $1.50 per kilowatt hour with a maximum capacity of 25 kilowatts|
|Required Documentation||Completed Golden Valley Electric application|
|Official Web Site||http://www.gvea.com/energyprograms/snap/|
Alaska’s Sustainable Natural Alternative Power (SNAP) program started in 2005 and now has 39 private renewable energy providers contributing clean power to the grid. The program operates separately from Alaska’s other utilities, having absolutely no impact on energy costs in the state.
The SNAP program is a way for clean energy advocates to contribute.
People and businesses within the operating area of the Golden Valley Electric Association can support the program by saying they want to donate money to the SNAP fund or by saying they want to buy clean power through the program. Either way, the end result is that participants pay extra on their utility bills each month with that extra money going into the SNAP fund to pay SNAP power producers.
Those who want to generate clean energy have to shoulder all of the up-front expense of developing a clean energy generation plant and connecting it to Golden Valley’s grid. But then they can sell the power they generate back to the utility company.
As long as the new operator-owned plant has a capacity of less than 25 kilowatt hours, Golden Valley Electric will buy the power from the SNAP producer at a rate of up to $1.50 per kilowatt hour. The pay out to the SNAP producer depends entirely on how much money is in the SNAP fund as of March 31 of each year. If there is no money in the fund, Golden Valley won’t pay anything for the clean energy.
SNAP producers are not allowed to store or use the power they generate for the program as a back-up supply. It’s metered separately as it’s fed into Golden Valley’s grid.
SNAP producers are also obligated to pay for any upgrades or updates required by future changes to the Federal or state laws regarding power generation.