GRID Alternatives Inland Empire (GRID IE) was joined by tribal partner Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and Anza Electric Cooperative Inc. recently to celebrate the completion of California’s first low-income community solar project with a ribbon-cutting. GRID Alternatives is a national leader in making clean renewable energy technology and job training accessible to communities who need it most. GRID IE was awarded a $2.5 million grant under the California Department of Community Services and Development (CSD) Low-income Weatherization/Community Solar Pilot Program to fund this nearly one megawatt solar array (994.6 kW DC, approximately 3,000 panels) located on the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation in Anza Valley. The project broke ground in June 2020 and was completed in January of this year. The CSD Santa Rosa Solar Project is expected to provide $5.4 million in savings to benefit low-income members of Anza Electrical Cooperative (AEC) and is part of the California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. Electricity generated from the system will not only benefit all (38) Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indian Tribal homes but will also provide electric discounts for up to 200 qualified low-income utility customers within the AEC Cooperative. This project reflects the collaborative spirit of this small rural community coming together for the benefit of those less fortunate. In addition, due to the massive size of the project, building the system consisted of a team not only of GRID construction staff, but also tribal trainees recruited to assist.
The ribbon-cutting event was well attended by Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indian tribal council and tribal members; Tribal Chair Lovina Redner, Tribal Vice Chair Steven Estrada, and Tribal Administrator Vanessa Minott. Additional attendees included AEC General Manager Kevin Short, Debbie Skallerud with All Mission Indian Housing Agency (AMIHA), GRID IE Executive Director Jaime Alonso and several GRID IE staff. Jaime gave an overview about the project and the impact it will have on the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indian tribal community, as well as AEC members. Five tribal trainees were honored including: Alex Alcala, Richard Fierro, Vivian Hamilton, Lovina Redner and tribal trainee Garret Marcus, who sadly passed away before the ceremony and was posthumously honored. His family received his certificate on his behalf.
Tribal trainee Vivian Hamilton expressed her gratitude to GRID IE for being able to participate in this historic project. “I am very proud of the work my teammates and I accomplished,” she said. Additionally, she expressed that she beams with joy at the sight of the project and is happy that her grandchildren will be able to tell people, “My grandmother helped build this solar project!”
GRID IE serves Riverside, San Bernardino and Inyo counties, providing disadvantaged communities throughout the Inland Empire with long-term relief from unpredictable utility costs, while training individuals for positions in the solar industry. GRID’s Tribal Program helps tribal communities become self-sustaining by providing resources to assist with their clean energy goals. Renewable energy can drive economic growth and environmental benefits in communities including tribal reservations that are most impacted by underemployment, pollution, and climate change.
For more information about GRID Alternatives Inland Empire, visit www.gridalternatives.org/ie or call 951-272-GRID (4743).