Extra Time for Tribes to Get Energy Project Assistance

Mark Fogarty

Tribes will get a couple of extra weeks to apply for technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy on their energy projects. How this will benefit up to five tribes is by giving their existing late-stage energy projects the assistance designed to help them get over the finish line.

DOE is extending the application deadline for the third round of Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) renewable energy project development assistance by three weeks, from May 1 to May 22. Up to five projects will be selected by late June. TA will be provided from July 2015 through August 2016 to the winners.

Since its launch in December 2011, DOE noted, the START program “has helped 21 tribal communities advance their clean energy technology and infrastructure projects — from solar and wind to biofuels and energy efficiency.”

One Indian country project that has benefitted from START is the one started by the Southern Ute. Southern Ute Alternative Energy, LLC received START assistance in 2013 to help advance the development of its $3 million, 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic project, DOE said.

“The program is very flexible, providing expertise in different areas as project needs change, including the site location,” said James Jensen, project manager for the Ute effort.

Through START, DOE’s Office of Indian Energy and DOE’s National Laboratory experts provide technical assistance for tribal clean energy development by supporting community- and commercial-scale renewable energy projects across the country.

Eligible applicants include Indian Tribes, Alaska Native regional corporations, and formally organized tribal energy resource development organizations, said DOE.

Applicants designated as White House Climate Action Champions will be given preferential consideration. Sarai Geary (Muscogee Creek Nation) is program manager in the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. She recently wrote about a successful Climate Action Champion, the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of California.

“To date, the tribe has reduced energy consumption by 35 percent, completed dozens of energy efficiency upgrades, and is recycling more than 70 tons of waste per year,” wrote Geary.

“The tribe, which began its strategic climate action plan in 2008, has invested considerable time and money into energy conservation and renewable energy projects—distinguishing them from others. Current climate action projects include a renewable strategy of transportation, residential, and municipal renewable energy projects. These projects will further reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, making the Rancheria a leader in the region,” she wrote.

Here are some of the tips DOE has given that tribes can look at to help their chances of getting this technical assistance.

“Successful applicants will most likely have demonstrated that their renewable energy project is aligned with overarching tribal strategic energy goals; provided evidence of transferable, durable site control; completed preliminary resource assessment or feasibility studies; identified a likely purchaser for the power generated from the project for commercial-scale projects; selected or evaluated a commercially available renewable energy technology; and established a clearly defined need for expert assistance in moving the project forward toward completion,” DOE wrote.

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