Biomass facilities, solar projects and even relocation support are among the tribal initiatives receiving technical assistance awards from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the federal agency has announced.
It’s the second phase of the department’s Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program, which kicked off this year’s operations in April, when five Alaska Native communities were awarded assistance for clean-energy endeavors that ranged from increasing the efficiency of wind energy and other infrastructure, to helping a village relocate due to climate change.
Added to that, the Energy Department announced on May 20, is assistance for five more tribes.
The Chugachmiut Regional Corporation, in Port Graham, Alaska, will build a new hot-water distribution system to include an energy-efficient biomass plant that uses local wood to generate power used by community buildings in Port Graham, a Native community. Energy Department assistance will include conducting technical reviews of feasibility studies, and other assessments of project design, cost and other factors, the Energy Department said.
The Black River Falls, Wisconsin, Ho-Chunk Nation is developing a one- to two-megawatt biomass waste-to-energy plant, the energy department said in its announcement, and will get help developing the facility. The department will help analyze the project plan, review the technology and evaluate financing options, the DOE said.
In Ukiah, California the Pinoleville Pomo Nation will get help on its three-megawatt solar utility project, which will generate an estimated 5,000 megawatt hours of electricity for the tribe’s administration building and a 24-acre subdivision on tribally owned land, the DOE statement said.
The San Carlos Apache Tribe, in San Carlos, Arizona, will get tech help to finance and install a one-megawatt, community-scale solar photovoltaic array on tribal land leased to the tribe’s casino, moving forward what the DOE called a “grid-tied project.”
Solar innovation at the Southern Ute Indian Tribe of Ignacio, Colorado comes from a community-scale solar photovoltaic project that will power tribal facilities and residences, projects that the DOE selected for assistance under this program.
The Alaska Native programs focus on energy efficiency and add ocean energy into the mix. In addition the communities are eligible for up to $250,000 in energy-efficiency aid, the DOE said. The Native village of Kongiganak will get help strengthening its wind-energy infrastructure, increasing energy efficiency and developing “smart grid technology,” the DOE said. Koyukuk will get help upgrading its energy infrastructure, improving energy efficiency and exploring biomass options. The village of Minto will explore all the above options as well as look for solar-energy ideas. Shishmaref, an Alaska Native village faced climate-change-induced relocation, will receive help with increasing energy sustainability and building capacity as it relocates, the DOE said. And the Yakutat T’lingit Tribe will also study efficiency, biomass and ocean energy.
The START program is part of a larger energy initiative designed to help tribes reduce their dependence on expensive forms of energy and become self-sustaining. On May 1 the Department of Energy announced $7 million in clean-energy-development grants for tribes. (Related: Energy Department To Pump $7 Million Into Tribal Clean Energy Projects)
“Tribal lands comprise nearly 2% of U.S. land, but contain about 5% of the country's renewable energy resources,” the DOE said in a statement announcing the clean-energy initiatives. “With more than 9 million megawatts of potential installed renewable energy capacity on tribal lands, these communities are well positioned to capitalize on our domestic renewable energy resources—thereby enhancing U.S. energy security and protecting our air and water.”
“The Energy Department’s START program helps Native American and Alaska Native communities enhance their energy security and create job opportunities in the clean energy economy,” said Tracey A. LeBeau, director of Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy, in a DOE statement about the technical assistance. “Building upon the achievements and lessons learned from the program’s first round, our new technical assistance awards for clean energy projects will help more tribal communities across the country deploy sustainable energy resources and increase local generation capacity.”