Planning commission approves Halsingland solar project


June 17, 2021

Solar power is coming to Hotel Halsingland. On June 10, the Haines Borough Planning Commission approved installation of solar panels on a portion of roof facing away from the Fort Seward fairgrounds.

Although solar panels have no permitting requirements in borough code, the proposal put forward by Halsingland owner Jeff Butcher required Planning Commission review because of the historic significance of the fort. Planning Commission members unanimously supported the proposal because of the panels’ proposed location.

“We’re always concerned about how the fort looks, but I think the way the solar panels are situated on a roof that’s facing away from the parade grounds, I don’t think anyone will notice it,” commissioner Rob Goldberg said.

Butcher described the project as a test with the possibility of expansion if all goes well.

“I was just hoping to put a 5kw system on the roof and try it out,” Butcher said. “It seems like that’s the way the world’s going, so it seems like a logical thing to do.”

Commissioners said they’re interested to see how Butcher’s solar project fares as it could signal the viability of future solar projects.

“I’m glad this is a pilot project for you, Jeff, because I face southward and I’ve always been interested in solar for my house, so I’m going to be watching you very, very closely,” commission chair Diana Lapham said.

In an interview after the meeting, Lapham said she’s particularly interested in how the system performs in cold weather and low light, and whether it has the potential to power the building on a year-round basis.

Hotel Halsingland isn’t the first Haines business to get involved with solar. In 2015, the Haines Brewing Company began work installing solar panels with the help of a grant from the USDA’s Renewable Energy for America Program. At the time, it was the only commercial building in town with solar panels. A number of homes in town have solar panels.

At the June 10 meeting, the Planning Commission also voted to recommend the assembly abandon current Lutak Dock plans and pursue funding for a new, phased approach to dock construction. A town hall meeting on future uses of the dock will take place June 24.


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