Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Independent Power Producer in Shungnak, Alaska.

The Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Independent Power Producer (IPP) project was selected as a Grand Prize winner for the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an initiative of the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP).

NCSP, a program of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), supports a coalition of stakeholders working to expand access to affordable community solar to every U.S. household and enable communities to realize meaningful benefits, such as greater household savings, low- to moderate-income (LMI) household access, increased resilience, community ownership, and equitable workforce development. NCSP is working toward a 2025 target to enable community solar to power the equivalent of 5 million households and generate a cumulative $1 billion in energy bill savings.

The Sunny Awards were launched in 2022 to recognize community solar projects and programs that employ best practices to increase equitable access to the meaningful benefits of community solar for subscribers and their communities. Meaningful benefits are key outcomes of community solar development identified by the NCSP. These community solar benefits bring positive impacts to the households, organizations, and the surrounding communities where the projects are developed and operate.

Project Overview

  • Project Name: Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Independent Power Producer
  • Location: Shungnak, Alaska
  • Project Size: 223 kW
  • Project Subscribers: N/A
  • Year Energized: 2021
  • Lead Organization: Northwest Arctic Borough
  • Partner Organizations: NANA Regional Corporation, Deerstone Consulting, Alaska Native Renewable Industries, Native Village of Shungnak, Native Village of Kobuk
  • Business Model: community-owned by the Native Villages of Shungnak and Kobuk, functioning as one independent power producer
  • State Incentives Leveraged: N/A
  • Bill savings: N/A
  • LMI access: N/A

Meaningful Benefits Best Practices

The Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Independent Power Producer (IPP) project, a solar-battery microgrid project located in Shungnak and Kobuk, Alaska, that is designed to produce solar electricity at a lower cost than diesel-generated electricity. The project is owned by the two tribes together and functions as an independent power producer that sells power to an isolated microgrid in Alaska, making it the first of its kind. In a community that has historically been heavily reliant on expensive diesel fuel to provide power, this project aims to stabilize the cost of electricity and allow the communities to take charge of their energy future.

The Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar project is an Independent Power Producer for two communities that includes a 223kW solar array, and a battery that allow the diesel generators to turn off for an average of 8-10 hours per day during the daylight season. The battery storage also stabilizes the local grid in the event of any generator failures, and can power the two communities for up to 2 hours. An Energy Fund created by the sale of electricity from the project will be used to maximize the system's size going forward. When the system reaches its maximum capacity, the funds will be used to help households lower the cost of energy by implementing programs like heat pumps and other energy-efficient devices.

The project provides 100% of households in the Shungnak and Kobuk communities with access to renewable power, increases the communities' resilience against diesel fuel and logistics cost fluctuations, and is owned by the two tribes functioning as one independent power producer.  The solar-battery microgrid project is the first of its kind operating above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and it creates a working relationship between the communities' households and the utility. The project allows the communities to have decision power regarding their energy future. This way of operating is now the model for other communities to follow, and the plan for the Northwest Arctic Borough is to have all 11 communities in their jurisdiction develop independent power producers within five years.

For more information on the Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Independent Power Producer project, contact Ingemar Mathiasson at IMathiasson@NWABOR.ORG.

Learn more about the 2022 Sunny Awards and the winners.