Shungnak faces daunting energy challenges because of its remoteness. Before the microgrid was installed, the community relied on a diesel power plant, which is checked three times a day but is not staffed full-time.
“People have to take charge of making sure the fuel is in the diesel. If somebody’s not maintaining it, it will cut itself off and you’ve got to refuel it,” said Roger Franklin, Shungnak school principal in a video about the project. “Try not to have power in the wintertime when it is negative 20 to 40 degrees below zero.”
The community is able to rely less on the diesel plant now by using a 225 kW solar array and a 32 kWh battery system. A microgrid controller with a ‘diesels off’ function allows for automatic coordination between the solar and energy storage and communication with the diesel plant about the best times to turn off.