On Tuesday, the DOE announced more than $16 million in funding for 14 tribal energy infrastructure projects through its Office of Indian Energy.
The projects add over 13 MW of capacity for 900 buildings, and will save approximately $7.5 million annually, according to Office of Indian Energy Director Kevin R. Frost. Nine of the projects will involve new solar installations, while others involve energy efficiency, battery storage and microgrids, among other technologies.
The projects, which also include an additional $23 million to be cost-shared between DOE and the tribes, highlight the potential of solar and efficiency to lower bills, while also expanding tribal energy autonomy and access to clean energy.
The funding opportunity was conceived to support tribes' ability to harness their on-site energy resources while reducing energy costs.
It follows other DOE efforts to financially support renewable energy development on tribal lands, where financing has been a challenge. The projects will serve a variety of facilities, including community centers, private homes and other tribal buildings.
Grant recipients include tribes in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, New York, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The Forest County Potawatomi Community in Crandon, Wisconsin, received two grants — one for 1,068 kW of solar for tribal facilities in Milwaukee and reservation lands, and another for a 200 KW solar PV system for its new community center.
The Colusa Indian Community in California also received two grants, expected to save the tribe a combined $14.6 million over the lifetime of the projects, $5 million more than the $9.4 million cost of the projects. One will build a parking lot canopy PV system and connect it to an existing microgrid, and the other will expand a tribally-owned uninterruptible power supply, which includes battery storage.
DOE highlighted millions of dollars in cost-savings over the projects' lifetimes. In almost all cases, cost savings are paired with environmental benefits: Togiak Natives Limited, for example, expects to offset 100% of the heating oil required by three end-user tribal buildings with a heat recovery project that will use excess heat from the existing power plant.
The projects also provide resiliency benefits: The Nuvista Kwethluk Energy Storage project will integrate 500 KW/670-KWh of battery storage with Kwethluk’s wind-diesel system.
"When fully charged, the system will be able to meet the peak load of the entire community at a rate of more than 500 KW for more than 1 hour or over 2.5 hours of restricted emergency power at the current average community load of 180 KW," according to the press release.