Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund promotes tribal self-sufficiency with solar projects to help communities
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund (TSAF) is promoting tribal self-sufficiency through solar projects that help communities with energy and jobs as well as encouraging community participation in solar projects.
Tanksi Clairmont, director of TSAF, announced that 12 tribes have been selected for clean energy solar grants for the next year.
This is the third year for TSAF and it has helped 15 other tribes with solar projects during the last two years. Part of the funding includes solar certification programs at tribal colleges, which can lead to jobs in the solar industry.
Clairmont said the benefits of the program have helped 30,000 tribal members and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
"Each solar system is designed to offset 50-90 percent of electricity usage, creating long-term energy cost savings that tribes can use to provide essential community services and that individual households can use to pay for basic household expenses,” Clairmont said. “The benefits of solar help tribal facilities such as: tribal community buildings, tribal fisheries, tribal health centers, tribal water pumps, and tribal housing which includes single-family and multi-family residences has been the primary focus of the TSAF tribal solar funding. Additional benefits include decreased short and long-term energy costs to the tribe and tribal members, solar awareness and education, and pride in knowing that they are utilizing a clean resource.”
The TSAF programs are solely addressing the needs of federally recognized tribes. With more than 574 diverse tribes nationally, Clairmont said it is important to the TSAF to equitably distribute funding while recognizing their limited capacity of funding and the ability of tribes to leverage other resources.
"The TSAF takes a comprehensive approach to supporting tribes in asserting control over their energy resources, with a particular focus on making solar implementation feasible within remote reservation communities that are underserved by the for-profit solar industry,” she said. “Through TSAF funded projects, workforce development and educational training remain at the forefront to ensure that tribal members from the tribal communities have equitable access to career pathways in solar.”
Neither the Navajo Nation nor any other Arizona tribes were among the grant winners this year, but last year the Navao Nation Ojo Encino Chapter was among the grant winners and installed approximately 45kW of solar for 15 families.
Twelve of the systems were grid-tied, and three systems were off-grid in order to serve families that are not connected to electricity. GRID Alternatives led the solar installations with community members and students from Fort Lewis College, Navajo Technical University, Navajo Preparatory School and other area schools.
Clairmont credits the GRID Alternative Energy leadership team with coming up with the idea and moving it forward. She said Adam Bad Wound, Tim Willink, GRID’s National Tribal program director and a handful of GRID’s existing tribal partners such as Spokane Indian Tribe, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe and Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla Indians were the main movers and shakers of the project.
TSAF is an initiative of GRID Alternatives which is funded by startup financing by Wells Fargo with $5 million over three years. TSAF also continues to raise money through fundraisers, grants and individual and tribal giving.
GRID Alternatives has helped tribal communities since 2010. The funding is part of a larger Wells Fargo program. In 2018, Wells Fargo approved $200 million toward sustainable energy financing projects and $100 million financing for clean technology and renewable energy projects.
GRID developed a plan to create the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund (TSAF) as an extension of the long-term partnership with Wells Fargo and the work of GRID’s National Tribal Program.
Adam Bad Wound, who is Oglala Lakota and GRID’s VP of Philanthropy. conceptualized the mission of the TSAF which aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities in tribal communities across the United States.
TSAF projects are by invite only due to limited funds. Projects must be feasible, cost effective and have community participation.
GRID is a national non-profit organization with offices in California, Colorado and Washington D.C. TSAF is based out of Denver, Colorado.
GRID Alternatives is the nation's largest nonprofit solar installer. GRID Alternatives is a national leader in making clean, affordable solar power and solar jobs accessible to low-income communities and communities of color. Using a unique, people-first model, GRID develops and implements solar projects that serve qualifying households and affordable housing providers, and offers solar education and hands-on job training to help people jumpstart their solar careers. Our work brings together affordable housing organizations, job training groups, government agencies, municipalities, utilities and local communities to make solar a win for everyone
For Arizona tribes wanting to get involved, the TSAF is looking to support tribes in any area of Indian Country, however it is more streamlined when the tribe has initiated a relationship/partnership with a GRID office or the GRID National Tribal Team as they are the experts in building solar energy capacity in tribal communities.