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HEA seeing interest in adding solar to power mix

Seventy-two years ago electricity in Homer started flowing from a 75,000 watt diesel generator, supplying power to 56 members who had come together to form the Homer Electric Association.

Today, there are a few more customers throughout the Kenai Peninsula and 80-million watts of electricity coming from a variety of sources, which still includes diesel. But the member-owned co-op has added hydroelectric, natural gas turbines and recovered heat generation.

Now, the board is looking at adding solar-electric.

“Last year, (the) board of directors wanted to look at this, you know, diversify our portfolio, wanted to look at solar, so we went out, looking at different options,” said Bruce Shelly, director of member relations with Homer Electric Association in Homer. “An option we came up with was a power purchase agreement, a PPA. Were asking a contractor to build a solar, a community solar site and then we would. Purchase the power off of the power from that site that they would produce.”

And even though bids had been requested and presented to the board, the whole idea failed on an 4-4 vote because of a missing board member. The board would bring the issue back around when all nine were present, and it passed, however new bids will have to be sought for the solar panel farm, which will be somewhere in Anchor Point.

A Power Purchase Agreement, allows supporters of the solar energy plan to show that support and help forward-fund the project through their monthly bill. Shelly explains.

“So far we have about 50 members who have signed up or pledged towards that. So every month they would pay $10 extra on their bill. So what do they get for it? They get the good feeling that ‘I’m supporting solar.’ But at that point, they actually don’t buy power with that. It’s more of a pledge.”

The pledges come in blocks that represent a certain amount of power generation. It’s best to drop by HEA or call your favorite co-op board member to get the full rundown on the intricacies of the plan, of which there are many. 

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