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Tribal Solar Gets $5 Million Boost From Wells Fargo

A tribal job trainee (left) and GRID Alternatives SolarCorps Fellow (right) install solar for the Navajo Nation in Arizona (Photo: Business Wire)

Wells Fargo has committed $5 million to the GRID Alternatives Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, which is an extension of its National Tribal Program.

Through the National Tribal Program, formed in 2010, GRID has already developed more than 600 projects—that’s nearly 3 MW worth of solar—in partnership with more than 40 tribes. GRID estimates those exisiting projects will generate $23 million in lifetime energy costs savings. The recent injection of philanthropic funds from Wells Fargo paves the way for continued funding of projects on tribal lands over the next three years.

GRID, a national leader in making solar technology and training accessible to underserved communities, not only catalyzes the growth of solar energy, it also expands solar job opportunities on tribal lands.

“Many tribes are looking to renewable energy to address both environmental and economic challenges in their communities,” said Adam Bad Wound, Vice President of Development for GRID Alternatives. “Access to funding is often the biggest barrier to achieving their goals, and we’re excited to be able to partner with even more tribes to move their solar PV projects forward.”

Support for the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund is a significant component of Wells Fargo’s $50 million philanthropic commitment to help address the unique economic, social, and environmental needs of American Indian/Alaska Native communities that was announced last year. Wells Fargo has been a major supporter of GRID’s state- and national-level programming since 2012.

Wells Fargo is a leader in renewable energy development. In 2017, projects owned wholly or in part by Wells Fargo generated 7.9 percent of all renewable energy produced in the U.S.

“Our strong relationships in Indian Country and with our Native American customers are a point of great pride at our company,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo. “We are pleased to have such an effective working relationship with GRID Alternatives and to provide the seed funding for its Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund. We sincerely believe that providing no-cost solar and job-training opportunities in tribal communities will address critical needs and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington, will be the first to benefit from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, with a grant that will unlock third-party investment capital and $1 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy for a 637 kilowatt solar project. When complete, the project will provide clean power and reduced energy bills for 14 tribal buildings, including elder housing, community facilities and tribal administrative offices.

“After a near disaster during the 2016 Cayuse Mountain Fire, the Tribe now places a premium on energy self-sufficiency,” said Tim Horan, Executive Director of the Spokane Indian Housing Authority. “We expect solar to play a big role in helping us achieve this, and the grant from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund was the last piece of the puzzle to make our first big project happen. We’re grateful to Wells Fargo and GRID Alternatives.”

The Spokane project, dubbed “Children of the Sun Solar Initiative” will be installed by GRID’s tribal team, which has already installed solar on five homes on the reservation. It is expected to break ground this fall, and will include hands-on solar training for tribal members and students.

Other projects slated for funding in 2018 will be announced in the coming weeks. An open application process for 2019–20 will launch early next year. For more information, visit www.tribalsolar.org.

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