For ten hot, humid days in July, GRID Alternatives staff bunked down in two mobile homes on the Bishop Paiute Reservation at the foot of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. They were there on a two-fold mission: to bring clean, affordable power from the sun to five families on the reservation; and to prepare a group of tribal job trainees for paid work opportunities with GRID Alternatives’ subcontractors, which will be hired to install systems for as many as fifty more tribal families with demonstrated need.
The demonstration project with the Bishop Paiute is a successful model for GRID Alternatives’ work in tribal communities around the country.
"The Tribe feels really proud,” said David Thunder Eagle, Assistant Tribal Administrator for the Bishop Paiute Tribe. “This is good for everyone all around."
The project’s triple bottom line of clean energy, financial savings, and job training will be a boon to this community in the economically depressed and polluted Owens Valley.
“My electric bills are very high – about $145 per month – and I am supporting three kids,” said WaSuYaa West, a client who received a system during the demonstration project. “There is no way I could ever afford solar panels on my own.” Her system, installed with donated equipment from GRID Alternatives’ partners Yingli Solar and Enphase Energy, will reduce her bills by half or more, saving her money she can invest back into her family and the community.
Job trainees on the project ranged from staff of the Tribe’s weatherization program looking for solar experience to people like Flora Dewey, an energetic grandmother hoping for new work opportunities. Flora used to work alongside her ex-husband on construction and roofing jobs, but hasn’t had paid work for some time because of the sluggish economy. She was excited to build her own skill set, and watch as her two young nephews learned some new skills too.
But for many on the reservation, the environmental stewardship aspect of the project was as equally important as the economic benefits. “My grandkids have asthma, and I have developed allergies over the years,” said Charlene Redner, a participating homeowner. “I really think solar power will help improve the air, making these things much better.”
To learn more about GRID Alternatives’ Tribal Solar Program, please visit us here.