Staff photo by Carol Keefer
This describes the new Photo Voltaic System dedicated Sept. 18 at the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Among the guests speakers were Mark Randall with Daystar Consulting from Clarkdale, Dave Castillo with the Intertribal Council of Arizona, David Lewis, energy director for the Y-A Nation’s Tribal Energy Office, and Jacqueline Guineau, solar energy educator for the Nation.
The Photo Voltaic System (PV) uses the sun to generate electricity for the Nation’s health center. Energy is collected in solar panels tucked inside carport roofs. According to Randall, Unisolar makes a flexible solar collection unit called Thin-film that can be peeled and stuck onto standard roof panels.
The project, according to information provided, established the Nation as a leader among Native American tribes in the movement toward using alternative energy sources that do not harm the environment and help preserve resources. The solar system is third largest in the country and the largest Native American owned and operated in the United States.
Also according to Randall, Indians began looking at alternative energy sources in Arizona when the electricity monopoly broke down. It appears that Native Americans are realizing many possible opportunities lie ahead for them in renewable energy, not only in tapping into natural power generators such as the sun for their own personal use, but also in the idea of reselling energy and in doing so, creating jobs.
Daystar is an energy consulting firm specializing in renewable energy that has worked with many Native American tribes around the country. Randall explained that his company actually wrote the grant application for the new PV at the local Y-A Nation. They received, he said, $550,000 to cover the cost of the program, administration, an accompanying education program and the system itself which ran about $400,000.
"When the transition to electric competition in Arizona was introduced by the Corporation Commission about 1996, Indians began looking at opportunities and impacts," he said. "The local Yavapai-Apache Nation sponsored an intertribal electrical conference as far back as 1998, with 14 of the 21 Arizona tribes attending."
Randall describes the conference as a "historical moment," one of the first intertribal energy conferences in Arizona and, in fact, in the country.
Randall went on to say that 55 tribes in the Southwest are eligible for federal hydropower from the big dams on the Colorado River which were generally sold in the past to towns and rural co-ops. The hydropower program available for eligible Arizona tribes is scheduled to begin October 2004.
In addition to its new PV, the local Y-A Nation is using other solar options.
Lewis said they have 21 solar streetlights on reservation land in Middle Verde, Camp Verde and Clarkdale, two, two kilowatt PV systems in residences, two solar hot water systems and one kilowatt PV system at the daycare center. He said they are currently contracting with Sacred Power Corporation, a Native American owned company primarily constructing PV solar carports, for a 10 kilowatt system at the new food bank located in Middle Verde.
During Thursday’s program, APS official Cassius McChesney presented the Nation’s Energy Department with a rebate check for $73,200.
Lewis said, "The amount of check was based upon of generation at the facility which is 36.6 kilowatts of DC power."
"When deregulation occurred, utility companies were required to provide a certain amount of its energy from solar and other renewable sources called a "renewal portfolio standard." APS is required to generate about 1 percent of its energy from solar and renewable sources. They’re currently collecting a surcharge on everyone’s utility bills. With that money, they can buy and build their own plants [they’re currently building a five megawatt generating plant in Northern Arizona] but they are also purchasing solar energy credits from those who are building their own systems, like the Y-A Nation."
He added, "Anyone who installs a solar system at home can apply to APS, and they will give you $2 per watt of DC rating of your system."
The Native American has a long history with the sun, according to educator Guineau, whose position with the Nation’s Energy Department is funded by grant money. She said the Tribal Energy Office is encouraging individuals to find ways to combine traditional solar uses that Native Americans have used for thousands of year into what could be applicable today.