Alaska Native Renewable Industries to Build Largest Solar Project in Rural Alaska

A total of 1,440 solar panels will generate an estimated 700,000+ kilowatt hours of electricity a year in the rural city of Kotzebue in Alaska. (ANRI)

Wind power has long supplemented high-cost diesel fuel to power energy grids for the city of Kotzebue in Alaska. Now the city is about to break ground on the largest solar project in rural Alaska, and the second statewide.

Alaska Native Renewable Industries (ANRI) is the general contractor for the 576-kilowatt solar project. The Alaska Native-owned ANRI will oversee design, procurement and construction of the solar PV ground-mount project for Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA). 

A total of 1,440 solar panels will generate an estimated 700,000+ kilowatt hours of electricity a year. With the new solar project, Kotzebue will be roughly 50 percent powered by renewable energy. 

ANRI founder Edwin Bifelt is Koyukon Athabascan Alaska Native from the interior Alaska village of Huslia. (ANRI)

ANRI is leveraging a new, innovative technology: dual-sided panels (LG 400-watt BiFacial solar panels). They’re able to capture more solar power from light reflected off of the snow. 

Construction is forecasted to start in late February and lasting into April 2020. 

ANRI founder Edwin Bifelt is ready to transform how projects are built in rural communities.  

“You know, a lot of times you’d see contractors based in Fairbanks or Anchorage,” Bifelt told Alaska Public Media. “And it’s always kind of challenging because they come in, they bring in a lot of their own labor and it was always kind of tough for me to see that.”

So ANRI is going about it differently. Bifelt anticipates making up to 20 hires—the majority of whom will be locals from within Kotzebue and the Northwest Arctic region. Construction crews will include laborers, carpenters, electricians and heavy equipment operators. 

ANRI founder Edwin Bifelt is ready to transform how projects are built in rural communities like the city of Kotzebue in Alaska. (ANRI)

Bifelt intends to continue ANRI’s rural solar push. His next bid is on a solar project in the Northwest Arctic village of Shungnak. ANRI focuses on Solar PV contracting and community-wide LED lighting retrofits for Alaska Native communities.

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