The Soboba Band of Luisen?o Indians is demonstrating its leadership in sustainable development with a community-scale solar project that will generate up to 3 megawatts of power — nearly 35 percent of the tribe's total energy needs.
On Monday the tribe broke ground on the first of three solar power arrays. The first, 1-megawatt facility will be built on the undeveloped eastern side of the reservation, powering the administrative center, schools and other community buildings. Construction will begin on phase two later this year, near the first facility.
It is believed to be the very first solar project on tribal land within Southern California Edison territory.
“Native people have long been ‘Keepers of the Earth,’ and with that, the tribe takes tremendous pride in this new environmentally safe development that is taking Soboba one step closer to becoming a self-sustaining tribe,” said Tribal Council Chairwoman Rosemary Morillo. “Each year brings both challenge and opportunity for growth. The experience we gain from past years can be applied as wisdom to serve us better in years to come. Taking the lead on bringing solar to our reservation will benefit all of us.”
Optimum Group LLC, as the project developer, secured permitting, metering agreements and a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for the 3-megawatt solar plan. Optimum Group negotiated the aggregate net-energy metering agreement with Southern California Edison following Rule 21 of the California Public Utility Commission. The Rule allows for financial credit for power fed back to the local utility and for even distribution of energy credits in multi-user developments. Coldwell Solar is the contractor installing the system.
“Native American cultures have always understood the importance of sustainability in their quest to live in harmony with all things,” said Optimum Group President Ali Sahabi. “We were honored to help connect the Soboba tribe with the resources, programs and analysis necessary to make this project happen.”
Soboba began a comprehensive land-use master-planning effort in 2013 with assistance from Optimum Group, leading to the idea of a solar project that is consistent with the values and traditions of Soboba culture.
“These solar arrays will give our community energy independence, free us from rising energy costs and reduce our overall carbon footprint on the environment,” Morillo said. “We are happy to be moving forward with this as a part of our new master plan.”