We have stronger proof that solar panels can thrive in extreme cold

It's time to dispel some long-held doubts.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Those who don't support renewable energy continue to claim that reliability is a significant issue for solar power, stating that solar panels can't function in snowy or extremely cold weather despite being able to perform even at night. But that is only a myth as a small but mighty solar-plus-storage microgrid project in Alaska proves, according to a press release published by the company running it on Tuesday.

A first of its kind project

The firm is called Blue Planet Energy. They have successfully deployed a first-of-its-kind project to provide support to the residents of Shungnak; a remote community above the Arctic Circle in Alaska. The microgrid was designed to address the numerous challenges of operating in extreme conditions and end the community’s dependence on a polluting and cumbersome diesel generator power plant. 

“Reducing Shungnak’s reliance on diesel generators is a tremendous accomplishment for the community and further proves the viability of solar-plus-storage in even the most remote locations,” said Edwin Bifelt, founder and CEO of Alaska Native Renewable Industries. “The complexity of this project required high-quality technology, and we know Blue Planet Energy’s batteries will deliver long-term reliability."

The microgrid consists of a 225 kW solar array that can offset much of Shungnak’s energy needs. Meanwhile, 12 cabinets of 32 kWh Blue Planet Energy Blue Ion LX battery systems each store excess energy for use when needed most.

Reducing carbon footprint and maintenance costs

This new system doesn't just reduce the village’s carbon footprint; it also dramatically decreases the fuel and maintenance costs of running diesel generators in remote Alaska. In total, it is expected to save 25,000 gallons of fuel per year and an estimated $200,000 per year on fuel costs.

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“Producing power in rural Alaska is immensely difficult, between transporting fuel into town by plane or boat and battling temperatures that can freeze generator engines,” said Ava Gibson, head of sales for Blue Planet Energy. “Milestone projects such as this are an exciting promise to the people of both Alaska and rural communities around the world for an energy resilient future.” 

"Thanks to the energy storage system, we can turn the diesels off but keep the lights on in the community. It also gives the local utility the ability to run on 100% clean energy for hours at a time," added Rob Roys, chief innovation officer at Launch Alaska.

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