Chemehuevi Tribe Completes $2.6M Solar Project to Further Energy Independence

Located at the edge of the Mohave Desert in Havasu Lake, California, near the Arizona border, the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation has dealt with its fair share of energy blackouts due to natural disasters like wildfires and flooding. Triple-digit heat also causes electricity bills to spike in summer months. Since 2014, the Tribe has made progress toward asserting self-determination of its energy future with uninterrupted clean power.

On Thursday, the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe unveiled its newest solar energy project: a $2.6 million carport solar system that will power the Chemehuevi Community Center, which is the Tribe’s designated emergency response center. The Chemehuevi Indian Tribe thinks it may soon become the most solar-reliant Tribe in California. The 700-member Tribe additionally supplements the energy needs of its hundreds of residents with solar energy.

“Everything you see here didn’t exist 60 years ago,” Chemehuevi Indian Tribe Chairman Charles Wood said at the ribbon cutting, as the Havasu News reported. “We are a small Tribe, but a progressive one … we’re producing power, dreams and the future. We’ve built excellent partnerships with utilities and the California Energy Commission to do this … for the future, I’m envisioning electric cars for Tribal functions, and one day an electric-powered ferry boat.”

The 90-kilowatt solar project is part of an integrated system dedicated to increasing energy independence, while lowering energy costs. The power system will incorporate solar panels, battery storage, advanced data analytics and smart energy management controls.

The project is supported by a nearly $2.6 million grant from the California Energy Commission, the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency, which aims to make California completely reliant on clean energy alternatives by 2030. Industry partners include the University of California Riverside and several California utility companies and GRID Alternatives, a solar advocacy nonprofit.

“The microgrid will enable us to provide emergency shelter for our community when they need it the most,” Chemehuevi Vice-Chairman Glenn Lodge previously said. (Photo Courtesy Clean Energy Group)

The Chemehuevi Indian Tribe’s clean energy project and collaborative effort may serve as a model for rural communities across California and elsewhere. “This type of university-industry partnership is critical not only for conducting independent, non-biased validation of leading-edge technologies, but also for providing a road map to other stakeholders wishing to deploy similar types of projects with lower tolerance for risk,” said Alfredo Martinez-Morales, managing director of the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy (SC-RISE) at the Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), reported Smart Cities Connect.