Sixty-six solar panels were recently installed on the roof of Tri-Community W.E.B. Association, which provides low-cost, homemade meals to Cherokee elders. (Cherokee Nation)
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. says the Tribe has a “sacred responsibility” to innovation to build a better future for the next seven generations of Cherokees through stewardship of land, air, water and community. Pursuing clean energy projects is pivotal to that commitment.
“I’ve always been an advocate for community solar use, because reducing our carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels is a global problem that Cherokee Nation can help solve,” Chief Hoskin said. “We have set a goal to reduce Cherokee Nation’s carbon emissions 25% by 2027.”
A year ago, Chief Hoskin initiated the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act to invest $30 million for elder homes and community building improvements across the Nation’s jurisdiction. One result of that is the installation of rooftop solar panels on two Cherokee community buildings.
The Tri-Community W.E.B. Association, which serves residents in Welling, Eldon and Briggs in Cherokee County, as well as the Native American Fellowship Inc., serving South Coffeyville in Nowata County, are using solar panels to cut their energy costs dramatically.
At the Cherokee County building, a 26.4 kW system of 66 solar panels will offset over half of the community building’s energy costs and save over $100,000 in energy costs over the life of the system. It is estimated to reduce carbon emissions equal to about 60,500 miles annually for an average car, or about 650,000 pounds of coal burned at a conventional power plant.
In Nowata County, a 4.4kW system with 11 solar panels will offset approximately 70% of the community building’s energy costs, saving over $23,000. It is estimated to reduce emissions equivalent to nearly 10,200 miles annually in an average car, or 110,000 pounds of coal.
“These centers have traditionally been places where our citizens can gather, socialize, share Cherokee history and culture, and enjoy a meal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have served as the local leads for food storage and distribution to elders and Cherokee families in need,” Hoskin stated. “By reducing their energy costs, we free up dollars to help more citizens and feed more people. Our community organizations will be able to expand their reach, and we hope this is just the beginning of building similar cost-saving installations for all Cherokee community buildings.”
Cherokee Nation intends to increase its investments in renewable energy, particularly as it becomes increasingly visible, viable and affordable. Next steps include expanding its electric vehicle infrastructure, including launching the first public rural electric bus transit system in the United States.