Energy grants for US tribes aimed at aiding vast power needs

Mar 21, 2022, 1:35 AM | Updated: 1:47 pm

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — More than a dozen tribal communities around the U.S. will share $9 million in federal grant funding for renewable energy projects, the U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday.

Nearly $1.2 million will support a solar and battery storage project in the Navajo Nation community of Kayenta in northeastern Arizona. Tribal officials said the project will provide electricity to 24 homes on the vast reservation where an estimated one-third of all residents are not connected to the power grid.

The 14 projects among tribes based in Arizona, Idaho, California, Alaska, Washington, New Mexico and Minnesota are expected to produce 3.3 megawatts of renewable energy and 3.6 megawatt-hours of battery storage. The amount of energy isn’t huge, but will chip away at the need across Indian Country.

“Clean energy is an enormous opportunity for tribal communities because it creates great jobs, local jobs, makes people healthier and safer,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told reporters. “It helps, obviously, keep the lights on and the heat on for so many Native families that don’t have reliable access to power.”

Kayenta has become a hub of renewable energy projects on the Navajo Nation. The tribal utility recently partnered with an Arizona utility, the Salt River Project, on two solar facilities that together produce 55 megawatts of electricity and serve 28,000 reservation homes and businesses.

The Navajo Nation project announced Monday emerged from a proposal developed by the community of Kayenta. The goal is to create a solar-based microgrid to provide power and internet services to multigenerational homes, said Nathaniel Brown, who represents Kayenta on the Navajo Nation Council.

“We are going to bring service to these individuals who have been waiting a long time,” he said.

The Navajo Nation will contribute about $1.6 million for the project, bringing its total cost to $2.8 million, Brown said.

Other grant recipients include:

— The Karuk Tribe in California, which will use nearly $1.4 million to install solar power at its casino and wellness center.

— The Metlakatla Indian Community in Alaska, which will use nearly $1 million to revamp hydropower turbines for increased energy production.

— Kawerak, Inc., a regional Alaska Native corporation, which will use $1.5 million to use geothermal energy to power and heat tribal buildings, a water well, a pump house and two bathing pools.

–The Coeur d’Alene Tribe in Idaho, which will install solar panels on a new youth recreation center with its $68,000 grant.

Tribes also will chip in on those projects because the federal funding won’t cover the entire cost of them.

The Energy Department has scheduled a virtual consultation session with tribes and Alaska Native corporations next week to talk about other opportunities for funding through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved last year.

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Energy grants for US tribes aimed at aiding vast power needs