GRID Alternatives launches fund to solarize Native American communities

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Native American tribes have been installing solar at least since 1987.  To advance this work, GRID Alternatives has launched a Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund with a $5 million commitment from Wells Fargo. 

The fund’s first grant will help fund 637 kilowatts of solar for the Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington, to reduce energy bills for 14 tribal buildings, including elder housing, community facilities and tribal offices.  The GRID Alternatives grant will catalyze third-party investment capital and a U.S. Department of Energy grant.

GRID Alternatives, America’s largest nonprofit solar installer, has partnered with more than 40 tribes since 2010, to install about three megawatts of solar capacity.

Following the Spokane Tribe’s solar installation, the GRID Alternatives fund will support a 90 kW solar installation, in partnership with the Chemehuevi Tribe centered in Havasu Lake, California, on three multifamily buildings.

GRID Alternatives has provided “hands-on solar training to 550 American Indian/Alaskan Natives to date,” said spokesperson Julian Foley, representing “a mix of community volunteers and stakeholders wanting basic solar education, and job-training students.” 

At the time of the 1990 U.S. Census, 14.2 percent of homes on tribal lands did not have electricity, compared to 1.4 percent for all homes in the U.S.; this value is apparently the most recent available.

Native American lands have an estimated 61 gigawatts of economic utility-scale solar potential—an opportunity that several tribes are pursuing with solar developers.

Tribes interested in requesting funding support from GRID Alternatives may apply at www.TribalSolar.org.