Renewable energy has become quite the buzz phrase in our world these days. Sometimes it takes other forms; clean energy, green energy, sustainable energy, but it is scattered through ads on radio stations, tv commercials, and even announced over the loudspeakers at airports. Sometimes through all this noise, it is hard to understand what renewable energy means to the average person.
The Inflation Reduction Act passed this summer included groundbreaking funding for renewable energy projects, as did the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package that passed in the months before. With this new funding, utility cooperatives across the state are (or at least should be) looking for new renewable energy projects to bring onto the grid, which will benefit all Alaskans.
Transitioning our state away from fossil fuels and into cleaner energy sources creates better air quality, and less pollution to our water sources and wildlife habitat. It will ultimately give us cheaper and more sustainable energy. However, right now in Alaska, affordable renewable energy is more accessible for folks with resources to invest in their small-scale solar or wind projects. It is time for that to change.
Community solar is a system where individuals can invest in and share the benefits of a solar array not located on their property. Each person who holds a share of the community solar array will see their portion of clean, sustainable energy on their utility bill each month. You can start to reap the benefits of having a solar setup without the upfront cost that so many of us can't afford. This also opens up solar energy to people who have yet to participate: renters, condo owners, and anyone who doesn't have space in their backyard or roof for a solar system can join the solar movement. It democratizes the energy transition and allows more Alaskans to contribute to and earn returns from renewable energy.
While 41 states already have community solar arrays, the great state of Alaska is one of the few without one installation. Many people may not think of solar when they think of Alaska, yet they should. Our winters may be long and dark, but the sunlight hours we have access to in the summer make up for the winter and then some. In fact, for seven months out of the year, Anchorage gets more hours of daily sunlight than anywhere in the contiguous US!
Community solar is a step forward for our state that can be unlocked with policy change. Our leaders in Juneau can make community solar available to all Alaskans with some simple regulatory changes. Community solar is just one of many great opportunities for Alaska; we have immense renewable energy potential that our elected leaders can and should tap into. This coming legislative session, we can push them to do it. We will keep you updated as the legislative session unfolds on how you can take action to make Community Solar a reality in Alaska.
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