Future Cities tours utility solar farm

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 9:26 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alliance for Reason and Knowledge staged an event that was designed to make the public think about energy development for the future.

The Alliance for Reason and Knowledge (A.R.K.) organized the Future Cities tour on Sunday, October 2 which encompassed a tour of Golden Valley Electric Association’s solar farm off of South Cushman in Fairbanks. During the tour Thomas DeLong, the chairman of GVEA’s board of directors, along with an engineer for the utility company spoke about renewable energy technology being utilized and developed in Alaska and elsewhere. Many topics came up including the use of wind, solar and hydro power across that state.

Solar power took center stage for the tour. DeLong explained how GVEA currently utilizes the solar farm and also how GVEA members can tie their personal solar panels into the GVEA power grid. In the event that a member chooses to due that they often see smaller or no payments required on their energy bills. Some members even produce extra energy which feeds back into the power grid. GVEA then buys that energy from the member instead of the member paying a utility bill.

When discussing solar developments, DeLong said GVEA was looking into a “community solar farm.” This farm would be a “community owned project . . . owned by individuals who will buy panels and that out put will be ascribed to their meters.”

Despite the focus of new methods of generating power, Robert Shields, an employee of A.R.K. who organized the tour, also acknowledged these new technologies do face a level of unreliability that will require the integrated use of traditional methods. An example of such being the use of wood stoves in areas with cold winters. Shields explained that while the stoves do conflict with zero emissions goals, new stoves and clean fuel can be utilized during power outages. According to Shields, “we don’t necessarily have to give up our old technologies, but we do have to think about the way we do them.”

Other developments discussed included using coal to make carbon nano-fiber instead of using it as a fuel. Shields said that if this approach is taken, the value of the product skyrockets and then we would be “building with our carbon instead of burning it.”

A luncheon took place at Pike’s Landing prior to the tour of the GVEA facility, where those in attendance spoke about renewable energy developments and needs. Simultaneously, A.R.K. put on another tour in Anchorage where the group visited a private residence.

For more information on upcoming events visit their website call 907-799-7045.