To the editor: A story recently published in Alaska Public Media trumpeted the new Solarize Fairbanks movement and its goal of reducing the cost of solar panels. But their plan to accomplish this — Fairbanks residents buying the necessary parts and technology in bulk — is detailed in a way that ignores some significant realities.
First, the movement is described as a “community-driven model,” but a collection of anti-fossil fuel companies is who really has their hands on the wheel. These companies, one of which is even hosting the movement’s web page, are looking to move residents and businesses to renewable energy sources to stop the use of fossil fuels. Moving in this direction would have serious and immediate consequences that warrant recognition.
Moving away from fossil fuels would mean significantly inhibiting an industry that accounts for one-third of Alaska jobs and about one-half of the state’s overall economy. The fate of working families needs to be considered.
The logistics of growing a renewable energy market and generating the necessary technology was also not discussed. From solar panels to electric vehicles, copper is the essential and little-known source.
A typical solar-powered household setup will require one or two panels, which would be made up of nearly 500 pounds of copper. The making of panels, batteries and cabling would also require a variety of rare earth materials that are almost exclusively imported by the U.S. The lack of these resources domestically is, ironically, largely due to the very groups supporting Solarize Fairbanks.
These groups should be supporting any and all mining opportunities in Alaska, which range from Alaska’s great Pebble Mine to Ambler’s Mining District, to make their movement a reality. Instead, they block and protest the development of these world-class deposits at every turn. This hypocrisy cannot be ignored.
As Fairbanks residents consider solar, please remember that jobs are at stake and materials don’t grow on trees. Resources need to be extracted, and those projects and the sustainable, good-paying jobs that come with them should be championed, not fought against and vilified.