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In this March 2015 photo, Blue Lake Rancheria volunteers install residential solar in the community.

Tribe Prepares to Go Off the Grid With Self-Generated, Renewable Power


In the event of a natural disaster or damage to the power supply line to Humboldt County, California, the Blue Lake Rancheria's renewable energy microgrid will be able to power the Rancheria independently for months at a time, reported As a certified Red Cross emergency shelter, the tribe will also take precautionary measures, producing and stocking up on clean drinking water and preparing adequate shelter.

“We knew that in an emergency, people are going to come,” said Jana Ganion, the tribe's energy director and project manager. “... We’d better be prepared for them.”

On August 24,  Blue Lake Rancheria, based near California's Redwood Coast, broke ground on a new low-emission, multi-component grid that will produce renewable power via solar, biomass and energy storage, states a press release.

The goal of the grid is two-fold: to provide community resiliency in instances of emergency or stretches of high energy use, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The system will also continually power 50 percent of the tribe’s government offices and major businesses like the Blue Lake Casino & Hotel. The project far surpasses the state’s goal of relying on 33 percent renewable power by 2020.

The new energy system is a joint project with the Humboldt State University Schatz Energy Research Center, using Siemens microgrid management software. The energy site is anticipated to be completed in summer 2016 and up and running in the fall.

The project was partially funded by a $5 million Electric Program Investment Charge grant from the California Energy Commission.

August's groundbreaking celebration drew local, state and national officials.

“I really want Congress to take note,” 2nd District U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said at the groundbreaking event, reported “The technologies that you are deploying here today in Humboldt County are going to serve as examples of what we can accomplish and the problems that we can solve if we work together. That is the story I take back to Washington with me.”

In December 2014, the White House and U.S. Department of Energy named the Rancheria one of the 16 “Climate Action Champions” recognized throughout the country.

RELATED: Obama Names Two Tribes Among 16 Climate Action Champions Nationwide

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