Project Overview

Tribe/Awardee
Northwest Arctic Borough 

Location
Noatak, AK

Project Title
High Penetration Solar and Battery Project in Noatak, Alaska\

Type of Application
Deployment

DOE Grant Number
DE-IE0000146

Project Amounts
DOE: $2,008,765
Awardee: $310,000
Total: $2,318,765

Project Status
See project status

Project Period of Performance
Start: 1/1/2022
End: 12/31/2023

Summary

The Northwest Arctic Borough, in collaboration with the Native Village of Noatak, will install a high-penetration distributed solar-battery hybrid system that will be connected to the local village electric grid. The project is comprised of a total of approximately 280 kilowatts (kW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) with a 500-kW power conversion system and an estimated 436 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of battery energy storage.

The core component, the grid-forming power electronic inverters and microgrid controls, is coupled with a lithium-iron-phosphate battery that will allow for periods of diesels-off operation during times of sufficient solar energy production and/or adequate charge in the batteries to safely run the entire grid.

The project will reduce fuel consumption by approximately 18,843 gallons, which is estimated to save the community more than $2.8 million over the life of the project while supporting the project goals of reducing diesel usage for power generation by around 10%, achieving roughly 3% diesels-off operation, and reducing the cost of energy to consumers by an estimated 5%.

Project Description

Background

The Native Village of Noatak has a stand-alone diesel electric grid, owned and operated by Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC), that generates and distributes power within the Native Village of Noatak. Because of the change in flow of the Noatak River, the community has not had barge service since the 1990s. All supplies must be flown into the community. Noatak is currently 100% reliant on flown-in diesel fuel for heat and electricity generation except for a small PV system powering the community water plant. Noatak consistently has the highest delivered cost of fuel and electricity price in all of AVEC’s service area, which spans 58 communities spread across most of rural Alaska. The unsubsidized residential rate for electricity in Noatak is currently $0.91/kWh.

Project Objectives

The primary objectives for the Noatak High Penetration Solar and Battery Project have been identified in their community energy plan—namely, reducing the community’s dependence on flown-in diesel fuel and reducing the cost of energy. In addition to the economic benefits, the installation of the solar array and battery system will lead to increased community resilience and energy security, and will reduce environmental impact as northwest Alaska grapples with the accelerating impacts of increasing temperatures, unpredictable weather, and the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic collapse. The development of an independent power producer (IPP) will increase local capacity, develop local jobs, maximize the return on investment to the community, increase collaboration with the local utility, and provide funding that can be used for the long-term focus on improved operations and maintenance systems for the community energy infrastructure.

Project Scope

The implementation approach will be a collaboration of the Noatak Northwest Energy Tribal Energy Development Organization, which is comprised of (1) the Native Village of Noatak and (2) the Northwest Arctic Borough, with additional support from the NANA Regional Corporation Inc. and other technical team members who have had significant involvement in the community and energy system analysis. AVEC will also play an important technical role in project implementation and accountability.

The team has set clear definitions of the project goals and responsibilities for each team member, established transparent frequent communication, and defined full accountability from all parties. The work scope will cover the following:

  • Negotiation of the power purchase agreement with AVEC and formation of the IPP with community and regional stakeholders
  • Budgeting and reporting
  • Development of a request for proposals and selection of an engineering, equipment procurement, and construction service vendor to provide engineering, procurement, and construction services for a solar PV and battery storage system
  • Construction and commissioning of the high-penetration distributed solar-battery hybrid system
  • System performance monitoring to validate expected results or determine causes of failure and identify mitigation measures.

Project Location

Noatak is a traditional Iñupiaq village in the Northwest Arctic Borough of Alaska, 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle, that is completely isolated and totally dependent on airplane-delivered diesel fuel to provide for all of the community’s electric and space heating needs and all imported goods. The 2019 village population was 415, and 94% of residents are Alaska Native. A decade earlier, in 2010, the village population was 514—a loss of almost 100 people that can be at least partially attributed to the challenges associated with high energy costs and related commodities.

Project Status

The project was competitively selected in Fiscal Year 2021 under the DOE Office of Indian Energy’s funding opportunity announcement “Energy Technology Deployment on Tribal Lands - 2020” (DE-FOA-0002317) and started in January 2022.

The project status reports provide more information.