DOE Funds Wind, Solar Infrastructure on Tribal Lands

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $9 million to fund tribal energy infrastructure projects— helping Native American and Alaska Native communities harness their vast undeveloped energy resources. The 15 projects will reduce or stabilize energy costs, as well as increase energy security and resilience.

Among funding recipients, the Spirit Lake Tribe in Fort Totten, North Dakota, was awarded $1 million to install a 1.5 MW wind turbine to displace approximately 62 percent of the electricity used by 12 tribal facilities and approximately 350 residential consumers. The tribe will provide a little over $3.1 million in additional funds for the $4,190,975 project and installation of the 1.5 MW wind turbine on the Fort Totten reservation.

“When completed, the turbine will … help the tribe save nearly $500,000 annually,” said Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Hoeven introduced legislation (S. 245) to help Native American communities achieve greater energy independence. The Senate passed the legislation last November.

“We continue to build and support a true, all-of-the-above energy policy in North Dakota and nationwide, including Indian Country,” added Hoeven, who hosted Energy Secretary Rick Perry this week for tours of North Dakota’s innovative work in both renewable and traditional energy sources.

In addition to the Spirit Lake Tribe, the 14 projects that received funding from the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs include:

  • Alaska Village Electric Cooperative Inc. and Stebbins Native Corp. will install a 900 kW wind turbine to provide power to two remote communities in rural Alaska, reducing diesel fuel use by approximately 167,500 gallons each year. Anticipated savings over 20 years is approximately $10,117,000.
  • Bishop Paiute Tribe in Bishop, Calif., will install at least 108 kW of new solar PV systems on 38 existing owner-occupied, single-family homes for low-income families. This adds to the 118 solar systems, totaling over 404 kW, already installed on residences on the reservation. It’s estimated that the additional solar will produce at least 175,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, replacing 30%-75 percent of the 38 homes’ total electricity use of 228,700 kWh per year, for a combined system lifetime electricity cost savings for the low-income homeowners of approximately $1 million.
  • The Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, Okla., will install 4.0 MW of distributed generation powered by natural gas to reduce and stabilize energy costs, expand energy independence and reduce the amount of coal-fired power. The power will serve nine integral community facilities and the Nation’s senior housing complex. This project is expected to cover 42% of the current total energy load for the facilities served.
  • The Coeur d’Alene Tribe in Plummer, Idaho, will install energy efficiency measures (EEMs) and deploy a solar PV system for its senior housing complex. the combination of the energy efficiency measures and solar PV deployment is expected to reduce energy use by 87 percent, which is expected to amount to savings of $7,600 per year.
  • Ho-Chunk Inc., owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, will install 320 kW of solar PV to serve nine tribal facilities. This project will add 320 kW of installed solar capacity to the existing 400 kW for a total of 720 kW toward the tribe’s near-term goal of 1 MW.
  • The Newtok Village Council in Alaska will install a heat recovery system that will transport heat from the generator cooling loops in the village’s power plant to the community buildings. The project will also implement EEMs. It is estimated that after implementation of the heat recovery system the facilities will see a 100% reduction in fuel use and a total cost savings of $109,710.
  • The Picuris Pueblo, in partnership with the Northern Pueblos Housing Authority in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is building on the success of its completed 1 MW solar PV system with the development of a second 1 MW solar system in northern New Mexico. The Pueblo of Picuris Community Solar System Phase II project will produce approximately 2.2 million kWh annually, with gross revenue of approximately $3,163,776 over 25 years through a power purchase agreement.
  • The Penobscot Indian Nation will install EEMs and a rooftop solar PV array during the construction of its new tribal administration building in Maine. The EEMs are estimated to save approximately $46,312 per year, and the 100-kW PV system will generate an estimated savings of $233,807 over a 25-year period.
  • The Pribilof Islands Aleut Community in St. Paul Island, Alaska, will replace refrigeration equipment and display cases with energy efficient systems; use waste heat to provide heat; and lower the cost of energy and maintenance for the Aleut Community Store.
  • The Rosebud Sioux Tribe Tribal Utilities Commission in South Dakota will install 250 kW of solar PV to offset approximately 45 percent of the electric load of the 30 housing units and one community building that comprise the Sicangu Village. This will save an estimated $38,026 annually and $951,875 over 25 years. As part of the project, tenants will receive energy efficiency education to reduce energy consumption, and local trainees will be recruited to assist in the installation providing a number of jobs.
  • The San Pasqual Band of Indians of Valley Center, Calif., will add a hybrid solar-storage-liquid propane microgrid system comprising 184 kW of PV capacity, 150 kW/300 kWh of batteries and 44 kW of standby generation. This project is expected to substantially eliminate long-duration disruptions to essential tribal services due to utility outages, and save approximately $45,190 in electric energy costs per year, or $1.13 million over the system’s 25-year useful life.
  • The Seminole Tribe of Florida in Hollywood, Fla., will install 563 kW of solar PV and approximately 700 kWh of battery storage, along with transfer switches and control systems, on the rural reservations of Brighton and Big Cypress to service eight essential community facilities. Specifically, the project is expected to reduce Tribal utility energy costs by approximately $4,908,291 over the 35-year life of the system, save the Tribe several thousands of dollars per year in costs for the existing diesel generators, and create jobs.
  • Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation will add 113.4 kW of solar PV to meet electric power needs at a tribally owned fish hatchery in northern California. Once the system is installed, 75-80 percent of electrical energy use will be replaced with solar energy, and an equivalent portion of the total $36,000 in annual electricity costs eliminated.
  • Unalakleet Native Corp. in Alaska currently has a microgrid powered by a wind-diesel system comprising four 475 kW diesel gensets and six 100 kW wind turbines. This project will upgrade and increase voltage on the transmission line, as well as improve the control and data acquisition system and associated data management systems in the power plant.

In related news, the Office of Indian Energy also recently released the Tribal Energy Atlas—a first-of-its-kind interactive geospatial application that enables tribes to conduct their own analyses of installed energy projects and resource potential on tribal lands. Developed by researchers from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it’s the most robust tool ever designed to assist tribal energy project planners, technicians, and investors with analyzing energy options in Indian Country.