Extra daylight reaches native solar improvement

By Charles W. Thurston May 18, 2023

The native solar energy improvement future has by no means appeared so vivid, so quick. Thanks largely to the impression of the Inflation Reduction Act, tribes can faucet tons of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} for brand spanking new energy tasks, together with massive federal loans with simple phrases.

According to the White House, “The Inflation Reduction Act provides additional investments for the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, and increases loan guarantees for Tribal energy development from $2 billion to $20 billion.”

However state applications are additionally stepping up tribal help for different energy, just like the California Energy Commission (CEC), which authorised $31 million final fall for long-duration energy storage. The state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) is paying for half of a brand new undertaking by Scale Microgrid Solutions for a 1.5 MW rooftop solar and a 6 MWh storage system for the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, situated in Riverside County, California.

What this implies for solar energy system suppliers, installers and EPCs is an opportunity at securing new — and hopefully repeat — enterprise with more and more well-advised, well-funded tribes. This is turning into simpler because of increasing undertaking improvement funding and matchmaking companies from non-profit organizations like Grid Alternatives’ Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund (TSAF).

Non-profits faucet company philanthropy

TSAF was fashioned in 2018 and has served 65 tribes awarding grants of as much as $200,000 for solar tasks located on tribal authority land, and $50,000 grants per yr for tribal energy plan proposals. As of the top of 2022, the fund had supported 751 kW of solar techniques at 87 solar installations, together with 27 grantees from 12 states, representing $3.2 million in grant awards. Among 2022 donors to the fund had been Sempra Energy, General Motors, Wells Fargo, the Bezos Earth Fund, Intuit Foundation, Illumina and Grove Foundation.

Part of the mandate of the TSAF is to assist tribes which can be at ground-zero when it comes to planning for a solar and/or storage undertaking.

“Not all tribes are shovel ready to start building their renewable energy infrastructure. The purpose of our energy plan grants is to provide help for those tribes just starting out, coordinating with a handful of folks and decision makers to envision what renewable energy looks like,” says Tanksi Clairmont, TSAF’s managing director. “We also help hire consultants or energy expert that can help them think through the process.”

Tribal energy firms emerge

Tribal solar tasks often embody heavy emphasis on native labor coaching and on serving to to foster native energy administration groups. While such help might require a lengthier undertaking time period, the upside will be an appreciative buyer with substantial want for extra tasks. There are additionally advantages that come up from the particular authorized standing of tribal lands.

“Tribal partnerships offer business advantages not found anywhere else. With a tribal partnership you could enjoy lower taxes, favorable zoning, reduced liability, manageable labor laws and many more benefits,” in line with the Migizi Economic Development Co., which is operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal council, in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

Native solar firms are also very centered on energy fairness. “The term ‘equity’ gets used a lot in the cutting-edge conversations around climate solutions and usually means ‘fairness.’ What we are doing is trying to develop equity for native communities in the business sense, meaning ‘ownership’ of renewable energy assets,” says says Matt Renner, VP of Seneca Solar, owned by the Seneca tribe in New York.

“A tribally owned company like Seneca Solar flips the old, extractive model of traditional energy development to focus on equitable outcomes for Native people. Tribally owned solar development companies are working toward an equitable renewable energy transition, rather than one that re-creates the systems that have led to the current climate crisis and economic inequality,” says Renner.

Partnerships between native energy firms and personal sector solar firms is a method that tribal experience will develop and that non-tribal installers and EPCs can break into the tribal solar market.

“With more Native communities participating in solar development, there’s a new opportunity now for solar companies across the U.S. to partner with tribally owned companies for all phases of the solar development process,” says Renner.

“Seneca Solar’s partnership with Alternative Energy Development Group (AEDG) provides an excellent example of these mutually beneficial partnerships. By working with tribally owned companies, private companies can center their work on climate justice and boost their ESG and DEI goals,” Renner provides.

AEDG has a $316 million portfolio of 102 business and industrial tasks spanning 485 working websites throughout 23 States. AEDG is also the managing accomplice for the $46M Alternative Energy Infrastructure Projects Fund I, L.P. (AEIP Fund I).

AEDG and Seneca Solar have collaborated since early 2022. Previous tasks embody conducting an in depth feasibility evaluation for a Fortune 100 world firm on a ten MW solar undertaking in Papua New Guinea, which President Biden lately deliberate to go to. The undertaking could be constructed, owned, and operated by native Indigenous communities.

Tribal utilities emerge

A rising variety of tribes are transferring past merely adopting solar and storage and forming native solar firms, to growing tribally owned and managed electrical utilities. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo introduced in April that the Department’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $4 million grant to the Fort Mojave Aha Macav Power Service to develop a 2.3 MW solar system for the Fort Mojave Reservation, situated in a number of states alongside the Colorado River. The undertaking is predicted to create or retain almost 50 jobs, in line with grantee estimates.

“[Fort Mohave] is one of only a handful of tribes in the United States that have established a tribally owned and operated electric and natural gas utility,” in line with the tribe.

Another tribal utility, Pechanga Western Electric (PWE) — California’s first native utility — fashioned by the Pechanga Band of Indians in Temecula, CA, is working to make clear new IRS coverage on Investment Tax Credits (ITC) because it applies to tribal solar developments beneath the IRA. Tribes are looking for to have the ability to reap the benefits of tax credit, be they for the tribe itself, a tribal energy firm, or a third-party tax fairness investor.

A current letter to the IRS by Pi-Ta Pitt, basic supervisor of PWE states:

“We request that all the costs of the upgrades, including systems study costs, and wholesale distribution system upgrades at substations or further along the distribution system, should be included in the direct payments/tax credits. These upgrades are conditions to the tribe’s ability to build many of its planned energy projects.”

New Mexico is probably going quickly to have a tribal utility, as nicely, given a invoice now earlier than the state legislature. SB-165 launched by Senate Democrats Carrie Hamblen, of Las Cruces, and Liz Stefanics, of Cerrillos, would allow the formation of utilities very like California’s native/regional Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) system, together with people who could be operated for and by tribes.

Charles W. Thurston is a contributor to Solar Builder.

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Tags: Financing, ITC, storage, Tribal Communities, Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, utility-scale

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