Efficient lighting systems, solar panels and job opportunities are coming to tribal lands across the country, along with funds to support them.
The Obama Administration announced this month that it would fund nine clean energy projects on tribal lands from New York to Arizona with $7 million through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The awards will help American Indian and Alaska Native tribes deploy projects the department hopes will save the communities money in the long run, while enhancing energy security and creating jobs and new businesses.
“American Indian and Alaska Native tribes host a wide range of untapped energy resources that can help build a sustainable energy future for their local communities,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “Responsible development of these clean energy resources will help cut energy waste and fight the harmful effects of carbon pollution—strengthening energy security of Tribal nations throughout the country.”
American Indian land comprises 2 percent of the country’s land, but contains 5 percent of all U.S. renewable energy resources, according to the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The projects competitively selected to receive include:
- Coeur d’Alene Tribe (Plummer, Idaho): The tribe will implement energy upgrades to refrigeration systems at its Benewah Market, helping to reduce energy consumption by about 30 percent.
- Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government (Fort Yukon, Alaska): The project will complete an energy efficiency retrofit to the tribe’s main office building, including building shell upgrades and the installation of efficient lighting and a solar electric system. These efforts could help reduce fuel oil use by nearly 50 percent, representing about 2,300 gallons per year.
- Forest County Potawatomi Community (Milwaukee, Wis.): The tribe will install solar panels on eight tribal facilities, displacing between 25 to 70 percent of the total energy used by each of the buildings.
- Menominee Tribal Enterprises (Neopit, Wis.): The tribe will install a biomass-fueled combined heat and power system to power the tribe’s sawmill and lumber drying operation. The project will help cut fuel oil use by more than 80 percent each year.
- Seneca Nation of Indians (Irving, N.Y.): The tribe will install a 1.8 megawatt wind turbine near Lake Erie. The turbine is expected to generate about 50 percent of the electricity used on the entire reservation.
- Southern Ute Indian Tribe Growth Fund (Ignacio, Colo.): This project will help install an 800-kilowatt solar energy system to provide energy to multiple Southern Ute buildings. This solar system could replace nearly 40 percent of the total fuel used in these buildings.
- Tonto Apache Tribe (Payson, Ariz.): The tribe will install solar arrays on three of the tribe’s buildings that consume the most energy, which would help meet more than 60 percent of the buildings’ total electricity needs.
- White Earth Reservation Tribal Council (White Earth, Minn.): This project will replace more than 60 percent of the fuel oil and propane currently used to heat the facility with the installation of a woody biomass-fueled boiler.
- Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska (Winnebago, Neb.): The tribe will install a solar energy system to help power the Winnebago police and fire building, providing about 30 percent of the building’s energy use. The solar system will also serve as an emergency backup power generator.
The DOE’s Tribal Energy Program has invested nearly $42 million in 175 tribal clean energy projects since 2002. In collaboration with the DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, the Tribal Energy Program provides financial and technical assistance to tribes for the evaluation and development of renewable energy resources, implementation of energy efficiency initiatives and education and training.
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