Solar Today Summer 2016 : Page 38
PHOTOS: JESSICA NELSON, TEAM GRID ALTERNATIVES 9, and expects to continue to expand its partner-ships with tribal communities across the U.S. GRID formally launched its national tribal program in 2014, building on work begun in 2010 in California, and opened its first tribal satellite office to serve families in the North Coast region of California. The nonprofit also partnered with like-minded Henry Red Cloud’s Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People in an inter-tribal demonstration project on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in July of 2014. Project leaders point to these initiatives as affirming the belief that reducing dependence on expensive and polluting fossil fuels is critically important. And, they add, on tribal lands, it is imperative. In 2014, GRID Alternatives was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House. Demonstration projects like GRID’s are helping build momentum among tribes around bold renew-able energy visions. The Picuris Pueblo, along with its supportive housing authority --the Northern Pueblo Housing Authority (NPHA) --has ambitious goals to extend solar photovoltaic (PV) in its community. The tribe had already installed a solar electric system on its 2,640-square-foot firehouse, New Mexico’s first net zero energy building in Penasco, about 50 miles north of Santa Fe. “NPHA is thrilled to be partnering with GRID Alternatives and All Points North Foundation to pro-vide a home solar powered system to a low-income homeowner at each of the three New Mexico Pueb-38 SUMMER 2016 SOLAR TODAY los we serve,” said Scott Beckman, executive direc-tor, NPHA, noting that Ms. All Runner was already saving $80 a month. “That’s a life-changing lot of money for someone living on a fixed income so she is very happy with her new system. We’re hopeful that positive results like these will be part of building the awareness and support partnerships like ours need to bring the benefits of renewable energy to homes around the country.” For Forestry and Fire Director Luther Martinez, Ms. All Runner’s installation was not only a logical next step for the community, but also a great oppor-tunity to provide a real-time platform for education about solar technology, and to help them better maintain the fire station’s system. “Picuris Pueblo is an isolated community, so we have to just use what we have got,” he said. “If anything breaks we will now have some knowledge on how to fix it.” And they will need that knowledge. In March, Picuris Pueblo was awarded funding by the Depart-ment of Energy via the Northern Pueblos Housing Authority to install a one megawatt solar array to offset the electricity of all 50 homes and 12 tribal buildings. (See: http://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-announces-over-9-million-funding-16-indian-and-alaska-native-community.) “Solar power is a great tool for tribes that are look-ing to develop economically in ways that resonate with our cultural values,” said Tim Willink, Director of Tribal Programs for GRID Alternatives, who is himself a Navajo. “It can reduce energy costs for families and communities, bring power to remote regions for the first time, and provide new employment opportuni-ties in places where they are scarce. And best of all, it’s clean, with very low impact on the land.” With support from organizations like APNF, GRID is moving full throttle on new strategic partnerships with tribal job training organizations, community-based partnerships, technical assistance linkages with tribal entities in remote rural regions, and the completion of over 100 additional solar installations with at least 12 different tribes across Arizona, Cali-fornia, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, New York South Dakota, Utah, and Washington in 2016. Each project is unique, developed in close col-laboration with the local community to align with their development goals, cultural and ancestral heri-tage, and sovereignty. And the projects are designed to not only last but become springboards for future projects, with built-in skill building and community education opportunities that ensure the expertise to maintain the systems and build new ones remains with the tribe. Recent projects include four grid-tied residen-tial photovoltaic (PV) systems in a housing develop-ment built for low-income Spokane Indian families in eastern Washington; a solar array installed by tribal volunteers and university students on the home of Karen Spotted Tail in South Dakota, a Rosebud Sioux whose community faces unemployment rates as high Copyright © 2014 American Solar Energy Society. All rights reserved.