The nonprofit solar energy system installer GRID Alternatives has begun installation of 92 new solar photovoltaic (PV) installations on tribal lands in the US — to be spread across 6 different communities in Montana, California, and South Dakota — according to recent reports.
The new solar PV installations are being developed partly with cost-shared grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to the individual tribes in question. The grants are part of an initiative announced by the DOE back in March to deploys renewables and energy efficiency measures across 24 different tribal communities in the US.
The new installations build on the work done as part of GRID Alternatives’ two-week Tribal Solarthon in 2015 — which involved the installation of solar PV systems in tribal communities in New York, California, South Dakota, and Arizona.
“Solar empowers our tribal communities to reach their clean energy goals — in some cases creating clean energy access for the first time — while expanding utility cost savings and job training,” commented Tim Willink, Director of Tribal Programs for GRID Alternatives. “Our model has worked for a variety of tribal communities and these federal grants will bring solar power to even more families.”
The first of the communities to receive the new solar PV installations is the Rosebud community in South Dakota. As part of a collaboration with the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Utility Commission and Housing Authority, 10 low-income families on the Rosebud Reservation “will receive solar electric systems expected to offset 40% or more of their electricity usage and save the tribe a combined $200,000 in lifetime energy costs.” Helping with the installations will be students from the local Sinte Gleska University — with the intent being for the experience to provide helpful to those looking to enter the solar energy industry.
“We are one of the poorest populations in the nation and energy issues are a part of this problem,” commented Ken Haukaas, a commissioner for the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Utility Commission who helped the tribe develop its strategic energy plan. “But energy can also be part of the solution. As a tribe we must strive to be energy independent.”
Solar Power World Online provides an overview of the projects (which total 394 kilowatts in combined project capacity):
- Bishop Paiute Tribe (Bishop, California) – The Tribe will install 120-kilowatts (kW) total solar capacity on 34 single-family low-income homes, saving homeowners about $1.29 million over the life of the systems, and moving towards the Tribe’s vision of installing solar energy systems on all Reservation buildings where technically feasible. Last year, also with a DOE cost shared grant, the Tribe and GRID installed 58 kW of solar electric systems on 22 homes.
- Chippewa Cree Tribe (Box Elder, Montana) – The Tribe will install 21 kW total solar capacity on three duplexes (six units) on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, offsetting approximately 27.3% of residents’ current aggregate annual electricity usage and reducing the 22.5% of gross income currently spent on electricity.
- San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians (Valley Center, Pauma Valley, and Santa Ysabel, California) – The Band will deploy clean energy systems for the partners of the San Diego Tribal Energy Collaborative, which include San Pasqual, La Jolla, and Mesa Grande reservations. The Collaborative will install 42 solar systems with at least 170 kW total installed capacity on 40 qualified existing low-income single-family homes and two community buildings, reducing the energy purchased by families at least 50%.
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