GRID Systems Advances Energy Independence for Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

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June 27, 2016

Independence has a unique meaning for Timbisha Shoshone tribal members as they celebrated the completion of 12 pole-mounted solar systems with GRID IE on June 2. The Timbisha Shoshone Reservation is located in a remote, rocky expanse of desert known to the world as Death Valley. Furnace Creek (population 138) is the nearest town and sits 190 feet below sea level. To say it is hot in Death Valley would be an understatement. The weather station at Furnace Creek holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded, a whopping 137°F on July 9, 1913. 

For generations, tribal members have made their home within this blistering, arid environment. Some of the oldest homes, adobe houses built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, lacked basic utilities such as water and electric service until 1978. Despite living in one of the earth’s least hospitable locations, even today many of the families live in houses without the basic comfort of air conditioning. 

Timbisha Shoshone leaders recognized the need for modernization, yet understood the importance of protecting and preserving their fiercely independent tribal culture. They found a solution through GRID Alternatives that had partnered with a neighboring tribe (the Bishop Paiute) to install over 90 systems on tribal lands in Bishop, California. Two Timbisha Shoshone members had participated in the Bishop Paiute projects and word soon spread about how utilizing the sun could help increase the economic and quality of life of the tribe. 

GRID IE team members worked together with tribal leaders to find funding sources for the Timbisha Shoshone solar projects. Tribal grants, in-kind donations, and SASH (Single-family Affordable Solar Homes) rebates were identified, then put to use under GRID’s Sub-contractor Partnership Program (SPP).  Sierra Solar, a SPP contractor from Bishop hired Timbisha Shoshone tribal members to complete the project and now the 12 pole-mounted solar systems are fully operational. 

The June 2, 2016 ribbon cutting celebration provided an opportunity for Timbisha Shoshone members who worked on the project to share about the job training experience. All received valuable hands-on solar training, exposing them to skills necessary to open career opportunities in the fast-growing solar industry. “The Timbisha Shoshone tribe is thankful for GRID’s solar program,” said Tribal Chairman George Gholson. “It is very helpful to our people in Death Valley.” 

The tribal members who received solar systems are particularly sensitive to high energy costs due to their limited fixed income. They expressed appreciation of GRID’s commitment to decrease the burden of high electric bills while supporting Timbisha Shoshone’s long-term vision of energy self-sufficiency. Flipping the switch on the installed 37.4 kW-DC of solar is expected to help the 12 tribal homeowners advance towards financial independence as well -- to the tune of over $191,000 in electric bill savings over the system’s lifetime. 

The same benefits provided to members of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe are available to qualified homeowners throughout the Inland Empire. As a community-based nonprofit, GRID offers solar programs that can save homeowners 50-75% on their electric bills. Additionally, GRID’s free job training program can launch solar careers in an industry expecting 15% growth in 2016. Learn more about our programs by emailing us at infoie@gridalternatives.org or call us today at 951.272.4743.