Build renewable energy in Native American communities for resilience

In the Navajo Nation, electricity may be a fragile commodity as climate change intensifies. Other tribes in the United States face similar energy quandaries.

Rate increase also can be harmful to tribal communities, so taking proactive steps to bring in renewable energy, cogeneration and energy efficiency can help to avert the blow of increased costs.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced Sept. 2, 2015 that it is requesting applications to co-fund renewable energy, energy efficiency and combined heat and power to help increase the climate resilience of indigenous communities.

Alaska’s situation is particularly acute. In rural areas, native villages use diesel generators, which can be expensive to operate. The cost of diesel varies substantially, causing unexpected economic challenges for these small communities.

Native villages in Alaska receive diesel via barge or airplane. Airplane shipments are particularly costly.

The available funding is estimated to total around $4 million to $6 million. Applications are due by Dec. 10.

For facility-scale installations, the amount of the source energy that must be displaced is 20 percent — and for renewable energy and/or combined heat and power, projects should produce at least 10 kW, said Lizana Pierce, project manager at DOE’s Office of Indian Energy.

For community-scale installations, there is no minimum source-energy percentage, but the renewable energy and combined heat and power system must produce at least 50 kW.

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