Hughes Village Council

Hughes, AK

Project Title
Sustainable Solar Energy for Hughes Village (Hudotl’eekkaakk’e Tribe)

Type of Application

DOE Grant Number

Project Amounts
DOE: $623,900
Awardee: $127,737
Total: $751,637

Project Status
See project status

Project Period of Performance
Start: August 2016
End: June 2019

Project Summary

The project is to install a 100- to 150-kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) array in conjunction with a lithium ion battery bank on the existing single- phase electrical distribution system and generation plant in Hughes, Alaska. This integrated system is estimated to offset at least 30% of the annual diesel consumption in the Hughes powerhouse, increase tribal energy security, and maintain reliable electricity and create a replicable system that can be installed in other Alaska Native villages.

The project is a joint effort between the Hughes Tribal Council, the City of Hughes, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), and the selected system designers and equipment providers.

Project Description


Hughes Village was founded in its permanent location about 100 years ago by Alfred Isaac. The Hudotl’eekkaakk’e (Mountain Creek) Tribe, was established under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1939 and continues to serve tribal members of the community through a variety of federal- and state-funded programs.

Due to the remote location of the Alaska Native Village of Hughes, Alaska, the community relies upon air and boat transit for every nonharvested commodity they have; the costs of this transportation frames their dependence on fossil fuels. The Hughes Village Council has created this project to reduce the community’s 100% reliance on imported diesel fuel. Sustainable development is a key goal of the energy working group that includes the city, Tribe, school, and elders program, and was formed as a result of the Energy Planning in May 2015. The process also allowed the community to identify a series of metrics that would be used to gauge if energy development was done well in their community. These included:

  • Affordable living
  • Quality leadership and self-sufficiency for the community
  • Less dependence on fossil fuels
  • The energy source would be environmentally friendly.

In 2015 the Village Council and City Council passed a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) identifying a goal of 50% renewable energy on their electric grid and/or a reduction in fuel use of 50% over 2010 levels by the year 2025. This could be one of the first and only RPS established by a joint Tribe/municipal MOU/resolution in the state. This project will help the community achieve its goal.

Project Objectives and Scope

The main goal of the project is to “solarize” the community of Hughes, Alaska, in a way that will reduce diesel consumption and costs in the community of Hughes.

With this, the objective of the Sustainable Solar Energy for Hughes Tribe Project is to:

  1. Increase tribal energy security and tribal resilience through the design and installation of a 100- to 150-kW solar PV array that will produce an approximate 30% reduction in fuel use for electricity production in the community;
  2. Develop a replicable PV-diesel hybrid electric system that can be deployed in Alaska Native villages across the state; and
  3. Implement a financial model that allows for tribal ownership of such a system while not negatively affecting the payments to the community through the state of Alaska PCE program.

Prior to the project, all of the electricity for the 78-member community, which is 96% Alaska Native, is produced from diesel generators at the community powerhouse and all fuel burned to generate electricity is flown into the community on 50-year-old Douglas (DC-6) planes. The project will supply electricity into the local village electric grid and provide electricity for each of the 50 buildings in the community of Hughes that have electric meters. All of these buildings will be affected by the proposed project in the form of reduced electric rates.

Once completed, this project will be the largest solar PV array installed in a rural Alaskan community, will utilize industry-leading technology and microgrid expertise, and will help accomplish the stated goals of the Hughes Village Council. Specific anticipated project benefits are:

  • Annual savings: 30% reduction in fossil fuel use, which translates to an average of $65k/year over the project's 20-year life span.
  • Opportunity for expansion: 30% reduction in diesel use across just the communities in the Interior  which burn 1.7 million gallons of diesel annually for electrical consumption, would result in a savings of 510,000 gallons of fuel each year.
  • Tribal members trained/jobs created: This project is expected to employ up to 10 local laborers, operators, and construction workers.
  • Reductions in emissions: The savings of a 10,494-gallons-per year reduction are: 234,855 lbs. of carbon dioxide, 6,338 lb. of nitrogen oxides, 416 lbs. of sulfur oxides, and 445 lbs. of particulate matter.
  • Environmental impacts: Fuel reductions will result in 10,494 gallons of diesel fuel that will not need to be produced, transported to, or burned in Hughes.
  • Step toward RPS: Hughes Tribe passed an RPS resolution that states it has a goal of 50% renewables of 50% diesel displacement by the year 2025.

The project methodology will be as follows:

  1. Access the detailed historical energy use logs that are recording the electrical production at the Hughes power plant, these are recording data in 5-minute intervals, and downloading that data onto the server in the Hughes power plant.
  2. Work with consultants to design an optimal solar PV system that will allow the community to run on solar PV and batteries rather than diesel during parts of the summer.
  3. Facilitate a community-led solar PV installation and training of what is predicted to be a 100- to 150-kW solar PV installation on land identified by the Tribal Council near the power plant in Hughes .
  4. Install a lithium-ion battery bank sufficiently large to allow diesel-off operation at the Hughes power plant.
  5. Work to develop a system operations and maintenance (O&M) manual with specific maintenance tasks and estimated replacement costs in different years.
  6. Establish a financial model that optimizes the community’s benefit from the integration of solar PV and the state’s Power Cost Equalization program.
  7. Develop an O&M manual with the Hughes Village Council to ensure the future sustainability of the diesel-solar hybrid system.

Project Location

The small Alaska Native Village of Hughes, Alaska, is a Koyukuk Athabascan village located on the Koyukuk River, about 200 air miles northwest of Fairbanks. There are no roads to the village and no barge service due to low water levels and a long stretch of river between Hughes and the next nearest Native community. The village is built upon a low-lying gravel bar about one mile wide by three miles long. The community has a 3,380- foot gravel runway and is serviced daily by one main commercial carrier for passengers and one air cargo for freight. The community lies just south of the 8.4-million-acre Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and is on the banks of the Koyukuk River.

Project Status

The project was competitively selected under the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy’s Fiscal Year 2015 funding opportunity announcement “Deployment of Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects on Indian Lands – 2015” (DE-FOA-0001390) and started in August 2016.

The November 2016, November 2017December 2018December 2020November 2021, and November 2022 project status reports provide more information.