Nonprofit GRID Alternatives Inland Empire joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Bishop Paiute Tribe at an Earth Day event marking the completion of 56 no-cost rooftop solar installations on tribal lands. GRID leveraged grants from DOE and the California Public Utilities Commission’s Single-family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) program to install the solar systems and provide workforce training to tribal members through two phases, starting in 2015.
The 56 individual rooftop solar installations will generate 217 kilowatts total power, saving tribal members up to 90 percent off their typical utility bills, and more than $2,000,000 over the system lifetimes. In addition, 18 tribal members received 725 hours of solar installation workforce training during the two phases of construction.
“Thanks to GRID and the DOE and participating tribal members the Bishop Tribe has made steady progress toward their goals,” said Mervin Hess, Tribal Administrator, Bishop Paiute Tribe referencing the Tribe’s goal to serve 200 homes, approximately half of the approximately 400 low-income homes, by 2020 with rooftop solar. “The savings from the installations are making a difference, especially for tribal members in the greatest need, and is a step towards become more self sufficient.”
America’s fast-growing solar industry is expanding between 15 and 20 percent every year and added 51,000 jobs nationally, including nearly 25,000 new jobs in California just in 2016. These well-paying jobs can be opportunities for tribal members who are interested in reducing energy costs to help their communities while improving the environment.
“Our mission at the Office of Indian Energy is to maximize the development and deployment of energy solutions for the benefit of American Indians and Alaska Natives,” said Chris Deschene, Director, DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. “Through investments in projects like these, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with tribal governments working to identify and implement viable, innovative energy and infrastructure solutions that unlock the value of their indigenous energy resources, reduce energy costs, create jobs, and improve their quality of life.”
The Bishop Paiute Tribal installations are part of a larger tribal solar program led by GRID Alternatives across 24 tribal communities in Arizona, California, Montana, New York, and South Dakota. The program is funded by more than $1 million in cost-shared grants to the individual tribes from the DOE, Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, which provides technical assistance, training, and funding to tribes across the country.
“Solar power really helps out, means one less bill to worry about, and is a money saver that helps me take care of my family. With the money we save from solar, I’m planning to expand on our home and do improvements,” said Harlan Dewey, a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe who had solar installed and received workforce training through the program. “I started training with GRID at the reservation’s first project and became one of the first tribal members to support the GRID program, and I still help out with installations. It makes me really good to help my people and to share the program with other tribal members.”
Tribal communities face some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States. GRID launched its national tribal program in 2014 with the long-term goal of making solar power and job training accessible to tribal communities throughout the U.S. Since 2010, GRID has partnered with 40 Native American Tribes and 400 Native American job trainees to install solar electric systems for nearly 500 tribal member families. GRID also partners with Tribal Colleges and departments throughout the country to provide students with hands-on training to supplement their curriculum, and in 2016, five Bishop Paiute youth participated in residential installs as part of GRID’s Solar Futures educational program.
“Solar empowers our tribal communities to reach their clean energy goals – in some cases creating clean energy access for the first time – while expanding utility cost savings and job training,” said Tim Willink, Director of Tribal Programs for GRID Alternatives. “Our model has worked for a variety of tribal communities and these federal grants will bring solar power to even more families.”
News item from GRID Alternatives