CleanCapital unveiled a new 8.5 MW solar project in Houston, Alaska, the largest ever build in the state.
While the project was announced at RE+ 2023 in Las Vegas, the project team held a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 29, 2023 marked its interconnection to the local utility grid.
The solar project was developed and constructed by Renewable IPP (RIPP), an Alaska-based solar developer. CleanCapital provided financing for the project construction and serves as the long-term owner-operator of the site. In addition to construction financing, CleanCapital’s investment funded RIPP’s operations to accelerate the development of its pipeline in Alaska.
The solar farm, built on “raw” land, was designed to minimize disturbance to the soil and vegetation. Unique features include a focus on land preservation and an engineering approach to handle Alaska’s extreme weather conditions. Affordable Wire Management (AWM) used an above ground wire strategy, with rugged metal cable hangers engineered to withstand corrosive environments and intense ice and snow loads.
“Since its inception, CleanCapital has been driven by a mission to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. I cannot imagine a better illustration of the importance of that mission than bringing solar to an oil and gas-centric state where the impacts of climate change are so vividly felt,” said Thomas Byrne, CEO at CleanCapital. “This project demonstrates the viability and economic rationale for adopting solar in Alaska, and we are proud to have played a role in building such a historic project.”
While oil and natural gas are central to Alaska’s economy and remain Alaska’s primary energy sources, residents and state leaders alike recognize the need to diversify the state’s energy generation. Today, 70%-80% of South-Central Alaska’s power and most of its heat is generated using a single source: Cook Inlet natural gas. Cook Inlet natural gas producers have cautioned about depleting resources, and importing natural gas would further increase the region’s high energy costs. Until now, the state had not built wind or solar projects at the scale needed to help the state meet its diversification and energy supply needs. The Houston solar project will help lead the way to a new energy mix within the state while providing lower-cost energy to the local community of Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
“We are thrilled at the cohesive partnerships formed among RIPP, CleanCapital, AEA, and MEA that resulted in the completion of this historic solar project,” said Jennifer Miller, CEO at Renewable IPP. “We took special care and consideration when constructing this project to take full advantage of the unique location and combat the typical challenges of bringing renewables to Alaska. This project is the largest of its kind in the state and we aim to continue developing cost competitive renewable energy projects to shore up Alaska’s energy supply and suppress energy prices for residents and local businesses.”
Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) will purchase cost-competitive power from the project to benefit its members. The project was also supported by a loan from the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA).
“MEA is excited to partner with Renewable IPP to expand the amount of clean energy on our system,” said Tony Izzo, CEO of the association. “Member surveys indicate people want MEA to produce more power with renewable energy, but not at an additional cost. We believe this project achieves that goal while helping MEA responsibly meet the board’s clean energy targets.”
— Solar Builder magazine