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Tribes Get $6 Million in Federal Funds for Energy Efficiency Projects

U.S. Department of Energy grants $6 million to 11 tribes for energy efficiency projects, mostly solar.
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Eleven tribal communities are receiving a total of $6 million toward renewable energy projects and technologies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced.

It is part of President Barack Obama’s ongoing initiative to help tribal nations and Alaska Native villages reduce fossil fuel use, save money and mitigate the environmental impact of energy use. Combined with tribal contributions of $7.5 million, the project investment will total $13.5 million, the DOE said.

“The Energy Department is committed to helping Native American tribes develop clean, affordable and reliable energy options,” said Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, in a March 18 statement. “By harnessing America’s clean energy on tribal lands, tribes across the country can cut energy bills, spur economic development and advance energy solutions in their local communities.”

The communities selected competed for the grants, the bulk of which will fund solar projects. The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs, California, will install a 76.9-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system to offset the energy usage costs of the Tribal Education and Family Services offices, saving $20,000 annually, for instance. Likewise the Bishop Paiute Tribe of Bishop, California will install solar panels on low-income homes. The Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska in Juneau ) retrofit its headquarters to reduce energy use by 30 percent, and the Oneida Nation of New York in Oneida, NY will make its utility plant more energy efficient.

The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin in Oneida, Wisconsin, the Pala Band of Mission Indians of Pala, California, the Santo Domingo Tribe of Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico (Kewa Pueblo), the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians in San Jacinto, California will install a one-megawatt ground-mounted solar PV system to meet 80 percent of the annual energy needs of facilities within the community. The project will provide jobs and $6.4 million in savings over 20 years, which can be redirected to other vital community needs, the DOE said.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of Fort Yates, North Dakota, will use its funds to install solar power at five Sitting Bull College buildings, reducing short-term energy costs by 20 percent, the DOE said. A bonus is that it will provide training and job opportunities for tribal members at the college as well.

The Tonto Apache Tribe of Payson, Arizona will install solar power and water heating systems in its gymnasium, the tribe’s market and its wastewater treatment and holding facilities, which will save about $1.6 million in electricity and propane costs, the DOE said.

The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, in Gardnerville, Nevada, will install solar energy in three communities “to achieve net-zero energy use in seven tribally owned buildings, saving $30,000 annually,” the DOE said.