Indigenized Energy Initiative (IEI), the Native-led nonprofit that aims to empower Native American communities with the skills and resources to deploy the clean and regenerative power of solar, has been selected by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe to develop the White River Community Solar Project.
The project will include residential, small commercial and a 1 MW utility-scale system for a total of 1.25 MW of solar photovoltaic systems across the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $3.2 million in funding for the project and requires the Tribe to contribute 20% in matching funds. IEI is taking the lead in securing the matching funds by June of 2022 by seeking project sponsors and donors for this important project.
Located in the heart of the coal development region of eastern Montana, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe has remained steadfast in their resistance to fossil fuels. In 2016, The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council passed a resolution to pursue renewable energy. The White River Community Solar Project represents the first step the Tribe is taking to generate all of its own energy from renewables while also creating jobs and driving economic development.
“Solar energy offers us a chance to regain our independence and stop reliance on fossil fuels,” says Kyle Alderman, renewable energy manager for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. “We’re excited to work with IEI, a Native-led initiative committed to energy sovereignty and to honoring the social, economic, spiritual, and environmental concerns of Indigenous Americans.”
IEI will partner with Red Cloud Renewable, a Lakota Sioux-based sustainability education and training organization, to design and deliver specialized training programs for Tribal members, which will equip them with the job skills to build these projects.
Three types of solar projects will be built as part of the White River project, including one large array in Busby that will be shaped in the pattern of the Morning Star; three smaller systems to offset electricity used at the Busby High School, a Head Start facility and a water pumping station; and 15 residential solar systems to benefit Tribal elders.
“Part of the White River Community Solar Project plan includes building residential solar systems at the homes of Tribal elders – each carefully selected by the Tribe as deserving and in need,” explains Otto Braided Hair, Jr., co-founder of IEI. “This will reduce energy costs for our Tribal elders and some of the systems will include batteries that provide emergency power to homes where elders are dependent on medical equipment that requires electricity.”
“The White River Community Solar Project is a major focus of IEI’s fundraising efforts this year,” comments Cody Two Bears, co-founder of IEI.