The Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund: Driving Impact on California’s North Coast

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January 24, 2020
Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund logo

Founded in 2018, the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities in tribal communities across the United States. The fund awards grants for projects that clearly focus on building renewable energy infrastructure, particularly new solar energy projects in tribal communities, that are feasible, cost-effective, and engage broad tribal community participation. Six North Coast tribes had the honor of being awarded Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund grants in the 2019/2020 cycle, making a perfect partnership with GRID Alternatives North Coast, who has been on the ground installing solar in the region since 2011. 

This partnership leaves much to celebrate: in 2019, 17 different Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund supported projects were installed by GRID North Coast, and another 13 are planned for 2020. 

Here are some project highlights:

Pinoleville Pomo Nation -- Youth Education Community Facility

GRID staff and volunteers at the install at the Pinoleville Pomo Nation Youth Education Community Facility

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation, in partnership with GRID Alternatives North Coast, installed 15.4kW of solar on their Youth Education Community Facility last August, deploying clean renewable energy, reducing overhead costs, and increasing access for educational opportunities to tribal youth. This was one of the first commercial solar projects installed by GRID’s North Coast office, and tribal member volunteers were a huge asset on this 51 panel install. 

The real impact comes with the opportunities the Youth Education Facility provides. As Julian, Pinoleville Pomo Nation member and install volunteer, shared recently:

“As native people, we have always been pushed down...I teach native kids, I work so hard for these kids to succeed. I see all the prejudice and different stereotypes our native people face. When you’re on the reservation, it’s hard to get off. If we don’t give our kids the opportunity to learn, to be supported, they don’t have a chance out there. This center gives them a chance, and by helping install the solar and working with GRID I really learned how it all works so I can help teach them.” 

Solar Electric Systems for 10 Low-Income Members of the Round Valley Indian Tribe

GRID interns Dalton Bruce and Monica Fuson at a Round Valley Tribe solar install

The Round Valley Tribe, in partnership with GRID Alternatives North Coast, received grant support to install solar electric systems for 10 low-income tribal members, of which 9 have already been installed. With a total of 43kW of solar installed, the projects will generate close to $316,500 in cost savings for low-income tribal members and prevent the emission of 392 tons of greenhouse gasses. Additionally, the project provided a 334 hours of hands on solar training, allowing for tribe members to take an active part in helping transition to clean energy, and providing valuable skills training for green job seekers.

Thanks to a partnership with Fort Lewis College, GRID North Coast hosted two paid interns who also helped on these projects, featured in the photo above. The awesome interns, Monica Fuson and Dalton Bruce, are from the Navajo Nation. Over this past summer, they collectively spent 335 of those hours out on site with GRID at these and many other installs. 

Yurok Tribe - Tulley Creek Facilities Project

Solar being installed on the roof of the Yurok Tribe's Tulley Creek Transportation Building

Through this project, The Yurok Tribe Planning and Community Development Department, in partnership with GRID Alternatives North Coast, installed a 26kW solar system on the rooftop of their Tulley Creek Transportation Building. The new transportation building will help staff maintain rural roads throughout the Yurok reservation, one of the largest in California, helping improve connectivity and services across the tribe.

This system is a first step for the Tribe in fulfilling their energy vision, which seeks to ensure all members in Yurok Ancestral Territory “have access to reliable, affordable, modern, cost-effective energy services” and “promotes energy self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability, use of local renewable resources, job creation and economic opportunity.”

A huge thank you to the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, our partners and volunteers! 

For more information on the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund visit: https://tribalsolaraccelerator.org/.