The Southern Ute Tribe will soon have a 1.3 megawatt solar array, the Oxford Solar Project, to power some of its buildings in Ignacio, CO. The solar farm will offset roughly 15 percent of the tribe’s energy usage at 10 of its buildings while reducing its energy costs.
It’s one of the first solar arrays on Native American lands that’s generating power solely for the tribe. Other nations are interested in solar power as well. One of the most active has been the the Moapa Paiute tribe, which is building the 250 megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar project on its lands, but that power will support customers in California.
The project is being built on the Oxford Tract, a 10-acre parcel of land. Construction is set to begin in September and slated for completion in December. The project, according to Namasté, will help the tribe build capacity to develop more clean energy projects in the future.
“The Oxford Solar Project will help reduce energy costs for the tribe,” said Heath Mackay, co-owner and project development manager of the Southwest Region for Namasté. “We are honored to partner with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to bring this project to life.”
The Department of Energy funded roughly 50 percent of the project costs, which is being installed by Namasté Solar, with a $1.5 million grant. The grant is being managed by the tribe’s subsidiary, Southern Ute Alternative Energy. The grant was made possible through the DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program.
“With the price of solar becoming competitive in the area we wanted to take advantage and focus on a local project for the tribe’s direct benefit,” Rebecca Kauffman, Southern Ute Alternative Energy president, said earlier this year.
Currently the tribe relies heavily on oil and gas business to drive its economy but realizes that it needs to diversify its economy since oil and gas is a finite resource, according to the Energy Department. It founded the subsidiary for the sole purpose of investing in renewable and alternative energy in 2008 and has made investments in projects, however most of its investments have been outside of reservation boundaries.Tweet