McKINLEY VILLAGE -- The sun is helping heat the water at the Denali Education Center in one of Alaska's largest solar water heating systems.
The Alaska Energy Authority awarded $190,000 to Golden Valley Electric Association of Fairbanks to commission the system at Denali National Park and Preserve. GVEA hired ABS Alaskan Inc. to design and install it.
"It demonstrates that not only are we an electric company, we are also an energy company," Brian Newton, Golden Valley president, said at the recent ribbon cutting.
The Denali Education Center hosts Elderhostel visits and sponsors youth programs, including Denali Discovery Camp, Denali Backcountry Adventure and WILD About Denali. The center's campus of cabins includes 17 water heaters powered by both electricity and propane.
The new solar heated water is expected to save the center as much as $9,000 per year in energy costs.
The sun doesn't directly heat the water. Instead, it heats a special glycol mix that runs through pipes in 1,300 square feet of panels that stand about 40 feet high. The pipes run into the storage tank and disperse heat into the water. The glycol, still contained in the pipes, then loops back through the panels to be reheated.
One of the officials at the ribbon cutting, state Sen. Joe Thomas, D-Fairbanks, said it was done with Alaska companies and Alaska labor.
"I see it as one of many small, but very important pilot projects to expand our ability to use renewables in the state," he said.
Golden Valley owns the system, while Denali Education Center operates and maintains it.