Investor Plans Largest Solar Farm in Alaska to Supply MEA
Renewable IPP’s solar farm in Willow, with 3,240 panels, is less than one-fifth the size of a new facility being built in Houston.
Construction begins this month on a new solar power facility in Houston, the largest yet built in Alaska. When completed by next summer, the array will supply an estimated 8.5 MW to Matanuska Electric Association (MEA).
Powering 1,400 Homes
Anchorage-based Renewable Independent Power Producers (IPP) is building the solar farm, thanks to an investment by CleanCapital, a nationwide underwriter of solar and energy storage projects out of New York City.
“This is a ‘dream come true’ moment for our company, which centers around partnering with a capable and collaborative team,” says Renewable IPP CEO Jenn Miller. “Thanks to CleanCapital, we are expanding the envelope of solar deployment worldwide. Proving solar works in the Last Frontier begs the question, can’t it work anywhere?”
Renewable IPP already operates a 1.2 MW solar farm in Willow. It was the largest in Alaska when it was built in 2018 as a 140 kW pilot project, enough to power at least twenty typical homes. The following year, the Willow array was expanded more than eightfold.
Miller credits MEA with supporting independent power production, which diversifies the utility’s energy sources.
“MEA is excited to partner with Renewable IPP to expand the amount of renewable energy on our system,” says MEA CEO Tony Izzo. “Member surveys indicate people want MEA to produce more power with renewable energy, but not at an additional cost. We believe this project achieves that goal while helping MEA responsibly meet the board’s carbon reduction targets.”
When fully operational, the solar array will power approximately 1,400 homes per year, or nearly three times the number of households in Houston proper.
Renewable IPP began working with CleanCapital in 2020 when they were connected by Launch Alaska, a local nonprofit that works to accelerate clean energy projects.
“Accelerating the energy transition necessitates seeking out regions that are currently underserved by the solar industry and working with local partners to build the projects that will bring cost-competitive and emissions-free power to those communities,” says Julia Bell, chief commercial officer at CleanCapital. “We are thrilled to make this significant investment in Renewable IPP, a team that is leading the way for solar in Alaska.”
CleanCapital will serve as the long-term owner-operator of the Houston solar facility. In addition to construction financing, CleanCapital’s investment will fund Renewable IPP’s operations to accelerate a development pipeline.
“This acquisition, along with several others we’ve announced this year, ensures that we not only remain competitive but are well-positioned to drive the energy transition,” Bell adds. With the investment in Renewable IPP, CleanCapital’s early-stage solar and solar-plus-storage development pipeline now totals more than 1 gigawatt nationwide. Since 2015, CleanCapital has invested more than $900 million in projects and companies that align with its mission.
Maintenance of the Houston solar facility is expected to employ about fifteen to twenty part-time workers.