The town of Kotzebue in Alaska is committed to lowering the cost of electricity by developing renewable energy from wind farms as well as initiating energy efficiency programs. In 2008 Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA) partnered with the Kotzebue Community Energy Task Force (CETF) to explore alternative methods for hot water and home space heating. The result was a project funded by the Denali Commission to install the first solar thermal systems above the Arctic Circle in Alaska, and perhaps in the world.
Many people are familiar with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels which make electricity. Solar thermal systems are different; they harness the heat from the sun and transfer that heat to residential hot water systems, and in some cases base board heating systems as well. The goal for solar thermal systems in Kotzebue is to reduce heating fuel consumption. KEA and CETF identified six (6) Elders homes within the community and in November 2010 began installations. By Christmas of 2010 all six systems had been installed and commissioned.
In order to determine the best usage of this technology above the Arctic Circle, it was decided to experiment with different designs and applications: 3 of the systems are for domestic hot water only and 3 of the systems are for combined domestic hot water and hydronic base board heating. KEA and CETF hope to realize a 30% reduction in heating fuel usage for hot water and space heating with these systems. Following a one-year trial period and assessment, there is great potential for others in the community and region to capitalize on the lessons learned and increased technical skills of KEA and CETF.
Source and top image: Kotzebue Electric Association