Anchorage solar tour

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Today was the 3rd Annual Anchorage Solar Tour, and I managed to attend most of the featured buildings. You can read more about the tour and the American Solar Energy Project on the website.

We began the tour in glorious sunshine in downtown Anchorage. Given our location most people have difficulty imagining successful solar projects in Anchorage but there are many stand-out examples. Our first site was a commercial office building next to the Egan Convention Center and across from JCPenney. Built in the 1960’s, the original facade was siding with a big sign about the Chamber of Commerce. The architect, Klaus Mayer, and the owner of Renewable Energy Systems were both present to explain the details, many of which went over my head. So I focused on taking pretty pictures. I did learn the panels only cover 10% of the energy usage for the building.

Solar Building – Downtown Anchorage – 441 W. 5th Avenue
Commercial office building.  The solar building features a photovoltaic solar array of 96 Trina Solar tsm180-da01 at 180 watts = 17.28 kilowatts output.  Three SMA 6000 watt inverters convert the dc power into ac and feed it into the building electrical service.  This system is now the largest net metered solar PV array in the Anchorage area, the local utility is ML&P.  Part of the south facade was used to place the panels at 90 degree tilt.  This incorporates the array into the existing building envelope with very little maintenance requirements.”

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The next stop was a home about 2 miles from mine, in the Sand Lake area of Anchorage. It looks like a normal suburban house but the owners (so sweet and helpful – they had ice water with cucumber, lemon, and mint for us) designed it from the ground up. Even in the winter it can get over 100 degrees in the living room. The plants growing in the windows reminded me a little of the Earthship and I wondered if they’d tried vegetables over the winter months instead of just these lush houseplants. The window in this photo actually faces west but the length of the house is oriented south. The project cost $14,000 with a $4,000 tax credit. The Kittleson’s keep a really detailed website about the home, including energy use data.

Kittleson House 5976 Muirwood Drive Sand Lake Area Site
This cutting edge house was designed from the start with the correct roof angle and orientation for great solar gain. Here is how owners Nicholas & Joann Kittleson describe the solar performance of their 2,000 sq ft house (new in May 2011): “Amazing! Passive overheats house unless we regulate by opening windows. In winter we use HRV to keep and circulate heat. Our domestic hot water has been provided nearly completely by solar collection since early March.” Built by Levi Smith of Alaska Decks & More LLC, with solar energy consulting by YourCleanEnergy LLC. The passive solar performance is enhanced by a large area of south facing Shiloh windows, moderate east and west window area, and minimal windows on the north side. The active solar hot water system consists of two Heliodyne 4 ft x 10 ft cold climate flat plate collectors, plus two 80 gallon storage tanks inside the building envelope. Federal Tax Credit of $4,000. 5Star+ rebate = $7,500.”

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From there I was off to H2Oasis, Alaska’s only indoor waterpark. I have been here a number of times but didn’t know they use solar power. We went out on the roof to learn about the panels that were just installed last summer. The two in the first photo are angled at 65 degrees to capture the maximum sunlight. The others follow the angle of the roof. The usual summer power bill is $30,000 and these panels lowered that amount by about $6,000; the owner said they would like to get that number up to $15,000.

H2Oasis Indoor Water Park –  South Anchorage – 1520 O’Malley Road
 Commercial water park.  Solar Thermal System Pre-heats Pool Water In Summer Months:  A total of 60 Vortex 4ft x 12ft polyethylene flat plate collectors are located on the roof, along with a 50 gallon Progressive Tube Solar Water Heater.  City water is used as make-up water for the large swimming pools and this enters the facility at 45F.  The solar thermal collectors heat the city water up to about 120F before it is piped into the pool that is maintained at 85F.   It is necessary to climb a steep set of stairs to access the roof and see the collectors.  The owner of contact is Dennis Prendeville and the system was installed by the staff of H2Oasis.  ”

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And my last stop (I didn’t make it to Eagle River) was way, way up on the hillside. Beautiful and serene.

Doolen Residence – Anchorage Hillside – 15051 Echo Canyon Road
Over 20 years ago this off grid home started with a small PV and wind turbine system installed by George Menard of Invertech.  This year a major system upgrade was completed to bring the PV array to 1,600 watts.  This energy efficient home was constructed using SIPS (Structural Insulated Panel Systems) by Enercept and JADA Construction Company.  The owners and installers are Dave and Dale Doolen.”

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2 thoughts on “Anchorage solar tour

  1. There are so many creative ways to use solar. Here in So. Cal, most new houses are built by contractors and they won’t spend one extra dime for the environment, and so many houses could be cranking in the kilowatts. I’ve got as many panels on the roof as code permits, which produces 30% of our needs.

  2. Hi Green Momma,

    Thanks so much for sharing the tour online! If your readers are interested in building a home that maximizes use of solar energy, Joann and I are sharing information from our experience online at https://sites.google.com/site/anchorageenergyhome/ The site is not finished yet and I have a lot more information to share. I am keeping the data up to date on one page so people can see how well our house is performing. That data is found in section 21, “Heating Systems.”

    Thanks for all the great information you post!
    -Nicholas Kittleson

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