by Sue Deyoe ~ August 28th, 2009
The Denali Education Center – a nonprofit educational center a few miles south of Denali National Park – can call itself home to the largest solar water heating system in Alaska.
The system consists of a 1,300 square feet of solar panels standing 40 feet high and lots of pipes carrying the solar-heated glycol to a 2,700-gallon water heat exchange tank.
The Golden Valley Electric Association owns and operates the new system. GVEA project manager Todd Hoener told KTNA that the project is part of an effort to demonstrate that hybrid systems work and may be the right step in the direction to get less energy from burning fossil fuels and to utilize renewable resources.
An analysis of Denali Education Center’s electricity bills showed that their propane and electricity run water heating system ate up a significant part of their operation budget.The new solar water heating system is projected to save them $9,000 annually. The system was build with a $190,000 energy grant from the Alaska Energy Authority.
Denali Education Center interim executive director Jodi Rodwell said that after working out the kinks, the system works well. It indeed worked so well that the water temperature was so hot that it had to get adjusted.
GVEA’s Todd Hoener said he hopes that more of these systems could be installed in rural Alaska and that the Denali hospitality industry could profit from them as their main consumption takes place in summer, when they could use the midnight sun to heat their hot water systems.