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Like Seminoles, tribe strives for energy independence

The Indigenized Energy Initiative is a Native-led nonprofit. (Photo Sarah Yeoman)

The Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeastern Montana has made a move toward energy independence. It has entered into a partnership with the Indigenized Energy Initiative (IEI) for help to develop a $4.1 million solar project on the reservation.

IEI, a Native-led nonprofit that works with tribal communities that are interested in such projects, made the announcement in a news release May 19.

IEI said its goal with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe is to “diminish energy poverty and restore self-determination with [a] regenerative, clean energy workforce and [through] economic development programs.”

The White River Community solar project is expected to include one large array (a collection of multiple solar panels), three smaller systems and 15 residential systems for tribal elders.

The U.S. Department of Energy is providing $3.2 million for the project, which requires the tribe to contribute 20% in matching funds, or about $900,000. IEI is tasked to secure the matching funds through sponsors and donors.

In 2016, according to the release, the Northern Cheyenne tribal council passed a resolution to pursue renewable energy projects. The IEI partnership represents a first step for the tribe to generate its own energy from renewables, and also create jobs and spur economic development. IEI is expected to train tribal members to work on the project as well.

The Seminole Tribe has pursued similar goals toward renewable energy projects and energy independence, including solar projects that are now in progress on the Big Cypress and Brighton reservations.

Solar panels are being installed to charge battery energy storage systems (BESS) to power generators at four different sites on each reservation so that essential services for tribal members won’t be disrupted during power outages. It means less reliance on outside utility companies.

Tribal members will also be offered training in order to work on the projects and maintain the infrastructure once it’s completed.

Tribal energy independence efforts were set into motion by Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr. soon after Hurricane Irma caused significant power outages on both reservations in 2017. He subsequently launched an energy committee to take a broad look at renewable energy and sustainability projects the tribe could embark on, which includes an annual renewable energy conference in Hollywood.

For more about IEI, click here or visit indigenized.energy.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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