Citing Strong Member Interest, Alaska Co-op Advances Community Solar Project

Chugach Electric Association, an electric cooperative based in Anchorage, Alaska, is moving forward with plans to build its first community solar project.

Responding to member interest and Chugach Electric Association’s sustainability business philosophy, the co-op’s board of directors recently approved authorization to proceed with the project. The installation is designed to include approximately 2,000 solar panels and generate 550 MWh per year. According to the co-op, the energy produced from the project is equivalent to 15% of the average electricity use of 500 homes.

“The sustainability resolution we passed earlier this year underscores our commitment to long-term, sustainable energy resources, and this project aligns well with that focus,” says Board Chair Janet Reiser. “Our members have shown great interest in community solar, and we are pleased to be moving forward on serving that interest.”

In August, Chugach surveyed 700 members about the co-op’s sustainability philosophy and interest in community solar. Of those surveyed, 63% favored development of a community solar project, and 60% of those said they’d be willing to pay more for solar power.

The solar project will be offered to retail members as a premium renewable energy product paid for by the member-subscribers who voluntarily purchase shares of the project. Subscribers then receive the energy output of their shares, and the energy output of their shares will be credited on each monthly electric bill for the 25-year project life.

“We continue to work toward developing renewable energy sources and allow any retail member to use solar energy,” says Chugach CEO Lee Thibert. “We can achieve great economies of scale in a community project, which will allow any member who can’t have solar panels at home to have solar power as part of their energy mix.”

Chugach says it has completed initial evaluation of a 500 kW project and estimated the total cost at $2 million or less. Continued development is contingent upon receiving favorable financing, pre-subscribing 80% of the available shares, and receiving necessary approvals from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

The community solar project is to be built on Chugach property on the east side of Minnesota Drive, south of International Airport Road. Construction could start as soon as April 2018, once 80% of shares are pre-sold. Sales of shares are expected to start in March.

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