SolarEdge powers the largest photovoltaic system in rural Alaska | Alternative Energy Magazine

2021-11-18 09:36:53 By : Ms. Jolly Wang

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Ground-mounted farms with double-sided panels and power optimizers reduce reliance on diesel and create local solar jobs

Case study from | Solar Edge Technology

“We are passionate about solar energy because it generates electricity until midnight during the 24-hour daylight months in the summer. In addition, compared to wind turbines, it costs less and requires much less maintenance. Utilities are more attractive. By combining SolarEdge MPPT technology with double-sided panels, we expect to generate more energy than originally estimated."

Matt Bergan, Engineer, Kotzebue Electrical Association

Alaska ranks fourth in per capita energy demand in the United States and has historically been one of the largest crude oil producers. As a result, the electricity price in this state is twice the US average. With the impact of climate change threatening the region, the local government has begun to deploy solar panels to reduce the use of diesel power generation and the high electricity bills in rural areas.

Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA) is a non-profit member-owned rural power cooperative that provides electricity to Kotzebue, Alaska-located 30 miles above the Arctic Circle. KEA consumes more than 1.2 million gallons of diesel per year to keep Kotzebue running. Based on the price per gallon, their cost is approximately US$2.4 million to US$5 million. This prompted them to explore cleaner and cheaper energy sources. 

For decades, KEA has been using supplemental wind power generation, so it began to seek solar energy, which is a cheaper and more sustainable option in the region.

KEA's mission is to offset diesel fuel for the Kotzebue community, so it chose Alaska Native Renewable Industries (ANRI), which is Alaska's leading EPC supplier. ANRI proposed a 576kW ground-mounted solar system powered by SolarEdge technology-mainly funded locally by the Village Improvement Fund of the Northwest Arctic Borough, the Tribal Energy Fund of the US Department of Energy, the KEA Capital Fund and the NANA regional company.

As part of this project, KEA eliminated eight aging 66kW wind turbines and installed the same rated power in SolarEdge inverters. SolarEdge power optimizer/inverter and LG double-sided panels are specifically selected to maximize energy production, extend system uptime and reduce O&M costs.

The solar microgrid project will generate more than 700,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, and Kotzebue now generates approximately 25-30% of its electricity from renewable energy sources (solar and wind). This is the second largest solar installation in the state and the largest solar installation in rural Alaska. Such projects can help reduce solar prices in Alaska and promote economic growth. It will save more than 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year-equivalent to approximately $100,000 per year.

Since solar power generation is higher during the day, it is the perfect solution to solve high-cost peak loads. It also allows KEA to run fewer diesel generators, thereby reducing operation and maintenance costs.

Other benefits include reducing local reliance on diesel fuel, lowering the cost of electricity bills in communities, improving the predictability of electricity prices, and combating the acceleration of climate change.

Finally, the project was realized with 100% of the local labor force, creating employment opportunities for clean energy in rural Alaska.

Since there are about 60-70% of the snow landscape in a year, ANRI understands the potential of capturing and using the accumulated and reflected light from the ground. In order to use this concept, they chose a double-sided LG panel, combined with SolarEdge's MPPT technology, embedded in the module-level power optimizer. Compared with traditional string inverters, the power optimizer helps eliminate nearly 3% of mismatch losses in the first year. According to PVsyst's model, due to module degradation and dispersion, it is estimated that the energy gain will exceed 6% in 20 years. In addition, since the module is double-sided, an additional gain of at least 5% is expected. With the additional advantages of SolarEdge's remote troubleshooting capabilities, KEA can further reduce expensive site visits and maintenance.

The SolarEdge solution was KEA's obvious choice for this project because of its low temperature capability, which is very suitable for the weather and environment in Alaska. The entire system has a built-in SafeDC™ function, which is designed to automatically reduce the voltage to a safe level and provide protection for installers and maintenance personnel.

"Helping rural Alaska reduce energy costs is a long-term vision for me. By leading clean living and solar work for Kotzebue residents, I hope other communities across the state will soon follow suit-we look forward to helping them become More energy independence."

Edwin Bifelt, CEO of Alaska's indigenous renewable industry

-Kotzebue, Alaska-576kW photovoltaic system-8 x SE66K SolarEdge three-phase inverter, using collaborative technology-720 x P850 SolarEdge power optimizer-1440 x 400W LG Neon bifacial module-monitored by local SCADA and SolarEdge monitoring platform- Estimated power generation: 700,000 kWh/year

The energy produced by this photovoltaic system is equivalent to:

-250 cars driving a year-145 households a year's energy use-1,475 acres of U.S. forests a year-1,244,162 pounds of coal burned-55,691 gallons of diesel consumption

SolarEdge is a global leader in the field of smart energy, providing innovative commercial and residential solutions to power our lives and promote future progress. Utilizing world-class engineering and global experience, SolarEdge has developed a breakthrough smart inverter solution that changes the way electricity is collected and managed in photovoltaic (PV) systems. Thanks to this and other innovations, SolarEdge has now become the world's number one solar inverter company by revenue, with millions of systems installed in 133 countries. SolarEdge addresses a wide range of smart energy market segments through its photovoltaic, storage, electric vehicle charging, battery, UPS and grid service solutions.

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