Solar For Tribal & Indigenous Communities
Solar energy continues to be an important resource for tribes, especially to support energy savings, resilience and sovereignty. Important funding resources may be available to help assess feasibility and implement solar energy projects, as well as provide workforce development training to promote tribal members' involvement in the renewable energy industry. The following grant funding resources have been utilized by tribes for solar project development:
- GRID Alternatives Tribal Solar Program - GRID Alternatives helps tribal communities achieve their clean energy goals while providing financial savings and job training opportunities to improve their members' quality of life
- Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) - Renewable Energy System Grants - REAP provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.
- WA State Department of Commerce - Energy Efficiency & Solar Grants - The Energy Retrofits for Public Buildings program provides grant funding for public entities such as towns, cities, tribes and public agencies to make energy updates to public buildings and facilities.
- Solar Deployment Grant Program - Clean Energy Fund - The Solar Deployment program supports the development of projects that deliver environmental and economic benefits to Washington communities. The most recent grant cycle offered funding to support low-income community solar deployment.
- Department of Energy – Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs - Lists federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy, and other entities that provide funding and financing to support tribal energy development.
|The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Energy Program is another great resource for tribes interested in solar energy, including upcoming events. Link to ATNI website.|
As sovereign nations, tribal communities are eligible for a wide array of grant funding resources, workforce development training assistance, and the ability to establish a tribal utility authority.
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy supports a variety of energy-related projects on tribal lands. Through these projects, tribes and Alaska Native villages have built the institutional capacity to manage their energy needs, assessed the feasibility of energy efficiency and renewable energy installations, and demonstrated the viability of installing renewable energy systems on tribal lands. Solar projects include:
- Muckleshoot Indian Tribe - Energy Deployment (MIT-ED)
- Lummi Nation - Health and Wellness Center Solar PV Project
- The Spokane Indian Housing Authority (SIHA) - Children of The Sun Energy Infrastructure Initiative
|Crew members install solar panels on tribal elder housing at the Spokane Tribe reservation in Wellpinit, May 16, 2019. (Courtesy of GRID Alternatives)|
With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a significant amount of grant funding opportunities are available to tribes, especially for solar project installation, resiliency improvements, and microgrid systems that incorporate battery energy storage. Funding is available specifically for Tribes to plan for and adapt to climate change, mitigate drought, support fisheries, and shift to clean energy production and use. In particular, The Inflation Reduction Act allows tribes to receive direct payment tax credits for wind, solar and other clean energy technologies.
According to the IRA Guidebook, IRA provides $75 million to help guarantee up to $20 billion in loans to support tribal investment in energy-related projects and $150 million to electrify tribal homes with clean energy. The Act also appropriates $225 million for tribal climate resilience, which can include support for community-driven relocation for tribes threatened by the impacts of climate change.
Tribes are eligible for most of the clean energy tax incentives in the law and many of the other funding programs described in the guide and under President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.
Other projects in Washington
On Washington’s Colville reservation, solar-powered microfarm looks to prove model to boost food, energy sovereignty
In 2020, PSE Awarded 10 Local Organizations Funding for New Solar Installations (including the Lummi Nation Housing Authority and Muckleshoot Housing Authority). Click to read article (from Thurston Talk).
Special thanks to Jack Newman, SolarWA Board Member (and with Sazan Environmental Services) for his contribution to this page.