Alaska projects win nearly $125 million in EPA’s national Solar for All grant competition

By Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon - April 24, 2024

Sunlight reflects off solar panels lining the student recreation building at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus on June 2, 2018. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Alaska is getting an infusion of nearly $125 million to build and expand solar energy projects, part of a national Solar for All program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pacific Northwest regional office announced on Tuesday.

The funding is split between two projects, one of them a partnership between the Alaska Energy Authority and the Alaska Housing Finance Corp., both state agencies, and the other a tribal project led by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a consortium of Interior Alaska tribal governments.

The two Alaska projects were among 60 selected for a total of $7 billion in funding distributed through a Solar for All competition. The money for the solar projects comes from EPA’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which was created by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the federal agency said.

“This funding will be used to supercharge the deployment of solar power in communities, create jobs, make our power grid more resilient, and lower the cost of energy for every household,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller said in a statement.

The AEA-AHFC project is designed to deploy solar-energy infrastructure around the state, from rural to urban areas. The AEA will use a grant program for communities seeking to develop solar arrays, including battery storage, while the AHFC will administer a program to subsidize residential rooftop solar installations, according to a statement released by the energy authority.

The authority already has a template for distributing the solar grants – its Renewable Energy Fund, which was established by the Alaska Legislature in 2008.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference project is a partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the AHFC, according to the EPA announcement.

The tribal consortium has been involved in solar energy for years through its energy program. Through its partnerships, communities such as Hughes and Manley Hot Springs have been able to use solar energy as an alternative to diesel.

In February, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $26 million to the Tanana Chiefs Conference to expand solar projects in eight tribal communities.

The Alaska programs are expected to last five years, with the first year devoted to planning, according to the Alaska Energy Authority.

Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, said she and the other two members of Alaska’s congressional delegation urged the EPA to select the AEA-AHFC and Tanana Chiefs Conference projects for funding. Delegation members sent letters to EPA Administrator Michal Regan, Peltola said in a statement.

“Investing in energy projects across the board–solar, wind, hydro and more–lowers utility bills for Alaska families and creates new jobs!” Peltola said in the statement. “I’m proud to have advocated for this funding and to be able to bring it home to our Alaska.”

Peltola, elected in 2022, was not yet in office when the Inflation Reduction Act passed, but she has praised it. The other delegation members, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, voted against it, as did all Republicans in Congress.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: [email protected]. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and X.