Associated Press

More Tribes Get Federal Help With Renewable Energy Projects

Mark Fogarty

Five American Indian tribes now join five Alaska Native villages in receiving technical assistance from the Department of Energy this year on their renewable and anti-climate-change energy projects.

The five tribes will get help through the DOE’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) program. No financial grant is included.

START is intended to accelerate the development of renewable energy projects on tribal lands, according to DOE. “START will assist tribal project teams and tribal legal/finance specialists to reach a late-state decision point or milestone,” the agency said.

The five 2015 award recipients are the Blue Lake Rancheria (Blue Lake, Calif.), the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians (Grand Portage, Minn.), the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin (Oneida, Wis.), the Picuris Pueblo (Penasco, NM) and the Ute Mountain Tribe (Towaoc, Colo.).

Blue Lake Rancheria, one of 16 White House Climate Action Champions (who receive preference for these awards), will receive technical assistance on a community microgrid with 0.5 megawatt of solar photovoltaics and 800 kilowatt-hours of battery storage. START will also conduct an analysis of the tribe’s current renewable energy projects and help develop a measurement and verification plan and strategic communications plan, according to the agency.

The Grand Portage Band will receive technical assistance on project feasibility and determine the most appropriate technical solution for transporting energy from a 1.5–2.5 MW community-scale wind project intended to provide energy to tribally-owned facilities and homes, DOE said.

The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin will receive a technical and financial analysis of a roughly 700-kilowatt solar PV project. “The tribe will also receive assistance with contractual and transactional matters as it works to develop its project,” said the agency.

Picuris will receive START assistance as it seeks to develop approximately 1 MW of solar PV on its land and facilities.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will receive START assistance to “pursue potential renewable energy projects, including community- and commercial-scale solar, small-scale hydro, and a closed-loop hydro storage project.”

According to DOE, “technical experts from DOE and DOE’s National Laboratory experts will provide customized technical support to selected tribes over a 12-month period. This includes working directly with the tribal project team and tribal legal/finance specialists who will address late-stage project decisions, negotiations, and agreements.”

These five join five tribes picked earlier this year in the Alaska START program. They are the Hoonah Indian Association, a Tlingit community on Chichagof  Island, in the southeast region of the state, 30 miles west of Juneau, and Huslia Village, on the north bank of Alaska’s Koyukuk River, 290 air miles west of Fairbanks.

Also Kokhanok Village, on the south shore of Lake Iliamna, Alaska, 88 miles northeast of King Salmon; the Organized Village of Kwethluk, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on the Kwethluk River, 20 miles east of Bethel; and the Native Village of Shungnak, on a bluff rising above the west bank of the Kobuk River, Alaska, 150 air miles east of Kotzebue.

In all, 30 tribes, 16 of them in Alaska, have won assistance with their renewable energy projects over three rounds of awards.

An example of a tribe that has put its TA to work is the Alaska Native village of Minto, north of Fairbanks. A weatherization project for the tribe’s Lakeview Lodge community center should reduce its fuel/electricity costs of $75,000 per year by 30 percent, the agency said.

In addition to the START assistance, the tribe got an Alaska Energy Authority biomass grant to install a more efficient boiler to heat the lodge and the clinic next door. The project also got a $250,000 DOE grant and a $100,000 Alaska Capital Improvement Project grant for the weatherization work.


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