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A handful of Mountain West tribes receive grant for renewable energy projects

Solar panels.
Andreas Demmelbauer
Creative Commons License
Solar panels.

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding nearly $9 million to tribal nations for renewable energy projects. In our region, some communities will see new solar panels or a microgrid to power homes.

The funds are being split between 13 tribal nations. One is the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico. They will install solar panels at community centers in four of the pueblo’s six villages — Mesita, Paguate, Paraje and Seama. They’ve estimated the project will generate between 87 and 100% of the needed annual power for the centers and save at least 70% of the costs, according to a DOE press release.

Elroy Keetso (Diné/Navajo) is the pueblo’s program planning manager. He says one of the tribal nation’s goals is energy sovereignty.

“Being able to kinda control that inside Indian Country — that’s one of the big things — being able to not necessarily have to hook into these big corporate energy companies,” Keetso says.

He hopes the panels also serve as a model for members of the Pueblo of Laguna.

“Solar panels in the community center would allow them to see that in action. See the cost savings potentially on them,” says Keetso. “And it would also make it more prevalent inside the community.”

He says for this grant they’ll have two years to complete the project followed by one year of monitoring. When they applied they estimated the project would require a nearly $175,000 grant from the DOE, but Keetso says that number is now up for negotiation as their application process was two years ago and cost estimates have changed.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe in Idaho is putting up solar panels, too – on a new youth recreation center. It expects to save around $136,000 over the years.

On the Navajo Nation a$1.2 million grantwill create a solar microgrid and battery storage. The project will power 24 homes in Kayenta, Arizona.

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