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University of Alaska regents to take another look at solar project

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Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 5:26 am, Wed Sep 25, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Leaders at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are making another push to build a 1-megawatt solar array on campus, three months after the proposal didn’t win enough support from the UA Board of Regents to advance.

The $4.1 million project, part of a partnership with Siemens Industry Inc., would provide about 5 percent of the campus’ annual electricity needs. The array is planned for a 4-acre site below the Butrovich Building.

Regents voted 5-3 in support of the proposal in June, but that fell short of the six votes needed for approval from the 11-member board. Three regents were absent during the previous vote.

The issue will return for a second try on Thursday during the regents’ meeting in Juneau.

At the June meeting, criticism of the plan included the appearance of the array, the potential for glare and uncertain expenses for the university.

The reworked proposal tries to address at least some of those concerns. The plan calls for fencing around the array that would blend into the nearby botanical garden and experimental farm fields for “an aesthetically pleasing, yet secure enclosure,” according to a UAF project description. A Federal Aviation Administration study that was requested by UAF determined that glare from the array wouldn’t present a hazard to air navigation.

The new proposal didn’t mention a power-cost agreement with Siemens, which was another concern voiced at the June meeting.

Under terms of the proposal, UAF would pay about $100,000 for design work, with maintenance and capital costs funded by Siemens. The company would recover its investment by selling the electricity back to UAF.

UAF estimated the project would provide electricity for about 19 cents per kilowatt hour, about 15 percent less than the campus was paying Golden Valley Electric Association last spring.

UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers said in June that the project is viewed as both an investment and experiment by Siemens, which views the project as a way to learn more about the potential for generating solar power at high latitudes. The UAF Facilities and Land Management Committee is recommending approval of the plan.

To see a full agenda for the meeting, go online to

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter:


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