Anchorage is investing in solar power to help fuel some of its energy needs. On Wednesday, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz flipped the switch to put Alaska's largest rooftop solar array into action.

The 216 solar panels sit atop the Egan Center downtown. Arctic Solar Ventures installed the panels at a cost of about $200,000 to the city. The company's CEO Stephen Trimble said the system is expected to generate about 9% of the electricity the Egan Center uses every year.

"Which is equivalent to about $25,000 in today's electricity costs," said Trimble.

He estimated the system should pay for itself in about seven-and-a-half years.

"A payback time period of seven-and-a-half years is very attractive for solar installations," said Trimble. "Because once that's completely paid off you are generating free power for a very long time — decades."

Mayor Berkowitz said the city could save $700,000 in electricity costs over the 30 year lifespan of the panels

The city estimates that over the project's more than 30-year lifespan Anchorage will save nearly $700,000. But Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the benefits go beyond savings. Berkowitz said the project is a key part of Anchorage's recently passed Climate Action Plan that also focuses on energy self-sufficiency.

"If we do more projects that allow us to be energy self-sufficient then we are going to have a greater capacity to not spend resources buying power but creating power ourselves," said Berkowitz.

Anchorage's Energy and Sustainability Manager, Shaina Kilcoyne said there are other solar projects in the works. In the next few weeks solar panels installed on the roof of Fire Station 10 in Bear Valley will be turned on. There's also another solar project planned for the Anchorage Landfill in Eagle River.

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