Building Energy Independence: Soboba Completes First Phase of Solar Project


Demonstrating the tribe's commitment to sustainable development and environmental preservation, yesterday the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians celebrated the completion of the first phase of its solar energy project with a grand opening ceremony.

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Harnessing solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuel that will establish the tribe's energy independence, a tribal media release states.

The Soboba Band broke ground on the project in January and has built the first of two solar arrays, which will power the tribal administration building, schools and other community buildings.

This is one of the first tribal projects of this magnitude in Southern California Edison's (SCE) service area.

"As a tribal member and tribal administrator I am proud to be a small part of this momentous occasion," Tribal Administrator Michael Castello said, additionally thanking current and past tribal council members, administration staff, Optimum Group, Coldwell Solar, the U.S. Department of Energy, SCE and all tribal members for their support. "This project and the one to follow will be a major benefit to the Tribe, to the environment and not just for today but for decades and generations to come."

The 1.107 megawatt solar system is on 4.42 acres of land. It is designed to produce 2,022,506 kWh annually, the equivalent to offering 1,395 metric tons of carbon dioxide. It will harness energy on sunny and cloudy days while delivering power at night. Rainfall will act as an ally by washing away dirt and dust in order to keep the panels as efficient as possible.

"It’s nature working with technology; contributing to strong economic growth for your tribe," said Don Carlson, vice president of project development at Coldwell Solar.

 "The people of your tribe have much in common with today’s endeavors in solar power," Carlson added. "Well before any other settlement was established here, self-sufficiency was central to this tribe’s rich and diverse history. You are the original agricultural stewards of this region. Once again, your tribe will harness the power of the sun. Its vitality and abundance will continue to play a central role in the development of your community. That’s what I find most unique and honorable about this project."

The Tribe’s grant coordinator, Deborah DeForge, with assistance from Optimum Group secured $1.5 million in the Department of Energy grants for the Soboba solar project. The most recent award of $500,000 was a facilities grant confirmed in March. An earlier $1 million community grant through the DOE was awarded last year.

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"This project would not have been possible without the support of the Tribal Council and other members of the administration including Steven Estrada, Kenneth McLaughlin, Michael Castello, Joseph Ontiveros, Susan Simmons and Deborah DeForge," Optimum President Ali Sahabi said. "We are truly appreciative of the value that they brought to this project through their dedication, expertise and teamwork."