The Kachemak Bay Conservation Center (KBCC), located on Ben Walters Ln in Homer, houses several conservation organizations like Inletkeeper and Kachemak Bay Conservation Society who work to protect and preserve this place we call home.
When the KBCC was built in 2001 with the vision of creating a space “dedicated to preserving the ecological integrity of Kachemak Bay”, it was dubbed a “conservationist’s dream”. The vision, set forth by retired biologist Ed Bailey, also included a five-star energy rating through modeling solar and wind power generation.
In 2001, a set of solar panels was installed; the first of their kind in Homer at the time. In addition to solar power, the building features ultra-efficient lighting, radiant floor heat, alternative building materials such as recycled plastic planking and cellulose concrete siding, and a double-hulled oil tank to prevent leaks or spills
The original panels aged out over time and as KBCC celebrates its 20th year, it seems fitting that a new solar panel array should mark such an occasion. Through the Solarize the Kenai effort, lead by building tenant Inletkeeper, replacing the panels to generate the energy used in the building each month became a priority for building owner, Nina Faust. “With the system in place, the building is a showcase for solarizing” said Nina.
Cook Inletkeeper’s headquarters have been in the Kachemak Bay Conservation Center since its construction. “We are very grateful to Nina for her leadership and commitment to local climate action through her investment in solar energy for the Conservation Center. As our ability to harness the power of a sunny day becomes increasingly more affordable, we expect to see panels on every rooftop in the near future,” said Inletkeeper’s Science and Executive Director, Sue Mauger.
The new system installed by Alaska Solar at KBCC is a 50-panel 17.00 kW array and was designed to generate the energy used on average each month. The average electric bill ranges from $250 to $350 per month. The amount of money saved each month should pay for the panels in about 6 years with a projected 25-year, tax-free bill savings of $96,674.
The KBCC system is what is known as a grid-tied, net-metered system and does not require traditional batteries. Homer Electric Association will act as the system’s battery – tracking energy production, offsetting monthly electrical consumption, and providing a credit for surplus monthly generation.
Solarize the Kenai is a group-purchasing model that has seen success across the country. The Kenai Peninsula community-based program is overseen by Inletkeeper and KenaiChange. Community members interested in going solar get the benefit of collective buying as well as the solar tax credit available to Alaska residents until 2022. The solar tax credit covers 26% of the cost with no upper limit. Inletkeeper hopes to continue running Solarize the Kenai with the help of dedicated community volunteers to make solar panels on residential and commercial buildings a reality for all Alaskans on the peninsula.