Aurora Borealis lights up the sky above Galena, Alaska

(Michael Bland is the CDE manager for Travois New Markets)

Alaskan winters are tough, but the “northern lights” bring beauty to the sky above one of our New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) projects in Galena, Alaska. With the average temperature this past February ranging from 5 degrees to negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit, weather can be a real challenge for the Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility (YKEALF). The facility provides high quality, affordable care to Alaska Native elders. Before Travois’ investment in solar panels, a wood pellet furnace, baseboard heaters and other energy upgrades, the facility faced bills of $5,700 per month just to heat the central gathering hall. This was simply not sustainable. In 2011, YKEALF sought out NMTCs to finance energy improvements and create an ongoing operational reserve to help reduce building costs.

We are pleased to announce that YKEALF completed all the energy upgrades in early 2013 and the new pellet furnace and solar panels are helping to keep the patients warm while reducing costs. Currently the facility is operating at capacity and fulfilling its role serving native elder patients while also keeping them close to their family and community.

Recently, we were sent these amazing photos of YKEALF with an aurora display captured in the background. An aurora is a natural light display in the sky caused by the collision of energetic charged particles. This takes place more than 60 miles above the earth’s surface and at speeds up to 35,000 miles per hour. As the streams of charged solar particles move along bends in the earth’s magnetic field, they strike atoms in the earth’s atmosphere. This creates the curtains of color. Greens, yellows, blues, and reds can be seen in the sky.

I hope one day to be lucky enough to see this amazing light display for myself.

Photos courtesy of Keith Ramos.