by Tina Olivero

    Northern Cheyenne Tribe Selects Indigenized Energy Initiative

    Indigenized Energy Initiative (IEI), the Native-led non-profit that aims to empower Native American communities with the skills and resources to deploy clean and regenerative solar power, announced it has been selected by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe to develop the White River Community Solar Project. The project will include residential, small commercial, and a 1MW utility-scale system for 1.25 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic systems across the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is providing $3.2 million in funding for the project and requires the Tribe to contribute 20% in matching funds. IEI is taking the lead in securing the matching funds by June of 2022 by seeking project sponsors and donors for this important project.

    Located in the heart of the coal development region of Eastern Montana, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe has remained steadfast in its resistance to fossil fuels. In 2016, The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council passed a resolution to pursue renewable energy. Today, the White River Community Solar Project represents the first step the Tribe is taking to generate all of its own energy from renewables while also creating jobs and driving economic development.

    “Solar energy offers us a chance to regain our independence and stop reliance on fossil fuels,” said Kyle Alderman, renewable energy manager for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. “We’re excited to work with IEI, a Native-led initiative committed to energy sovereignty and to honoring the social, economic, spiritual, and environmental concerns of Indigenous Americans.”

    Project Details

    IEI’s systems-based methodology weaves expertise in policy, economic development, workforce development, solar technology, and system operations to build the capacity of Tribes to become energy independent. IEI will partner with Red Cloud Renewable, a Lakota Sioux-based sustainability education, and training organization, to design and deliver specialized training programs for Tribal members, which will equip them with the job skills to build these projects.

    Three types of solar projects will be built as part of the White River project, including one large array in Busby that will be shaped in the pattern of the Morning Star; three smaller systems will be built to offset electricity used at the Busby High School, a Head Start facility, and a water pumping station; and 15 residential solar systems, which will benefit Tribal elders.

    “Part of the White River Community Solar Project plan includes building residential solar systems at the homes of Tribal elders – each carefully selected by the Tribe as deserving and in need,” explained Otto Braided Hair, Jr., co-founder of IEI. “This will reduce energy costs for our Tribal elders and some of the systems will include batteries that provide emergency power to homes where elders are dependent on medical equipment that requires electricity.”

    Project Funding – Matching Funds Challenge

    The U.S. Department of Energy is providing $3.2 million in funds for the project and requires the Tribe to contribute 20% in matching funds. IEI is taking the lead in securing the matching funds by June of 2022.  

    “The White River Community Solar Project is a major focus of IEI’s fundraising efforts this year,” said Cody Two Bears, co-founder of IEI.

    IEI and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe are seeking project sponsors and donors to help secure the matching funds needed for this important project, which demonstrates that it is possible for Tribes to take back their power and sovereignty. Visit White River Community Solar Project to learn how you can give. Watch the White River Community Solar Project Challenge video here.

    About Indigenized Energy Initiative

    Indigenized Energy Initiative (IEI) is a Native-led non-profit that empowers Native American tribes to pursue a self-determined path towards energy independence and sovereignty.  Formed in response to the inspiring leadership of Native communities in resisting fossil fuel development and in pursuit of clean regenerative energy systems, IEI is supporting a growing number of tribes in the development of long-term energy plans and projects that will maximize economic impact through job creation, energy savings, and resiliency. Building trust with tribes is a vital aspect of IEI’s approach.  With a deep respect for the wisdom and values held by Native communities, IEI works side by side with tribes on their path to energy independence. Led by a diverse team of Native change-makers and energy leaders that draws from decades of experience in energy, education, and workforce development, IEI receives support from a growing list of partners including John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and founding donors, the Pazala Foundation. IEI is a project of Earth Island Institute. Visit www.indigenized.energy to learn more.

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