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One of the chief hesitancies about using solar energy to replace fossil fuels on a large scale is what happens when the sun isn’t shining. Technology is increasingly solving that problem, making solar attractive even in areas where the sun literally doesn’t shine for months at a time.
Alaska, for example, is seeing a boon of solar installations, according to a story in the Alaska Journal. Part of the reason for an increase of about 200 percent, according to one solar installer, is that solar module cost has dropped 97 percent between 1980 and 2012. What’s more, solar is attractive to business in remote areas because it’s easy to install and solves the problem of spotty grid electricity.
Several utilities in Alaska are also turning to large-scale solar projects. As one example, Golden Valley Electric Association installed a 563-kilowatt solar farm in 2018. Chugach Electric Association is planning to spend $2 million on another 500-kilowatt solar farm is planned.
“Whether you’re politically conservative or politically liberal, it doesn’t matter, because if you’re assessing solar as a potential customer, there’s the environmental benefits, there’s the immediate electric bill savings on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that are very substantial. Most of our solar installations produce power at about a third of the cost of what they pay," said Stephen Trimble, owner of Arctic Solar Ventures.
Greg Zimmerman is executive editor of Building Operating Management. Read his cover story on how buildings are tackling climate change.