Construction on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s 1.3-MW ground-mounted solar array in Ignacio, Colorado, will begin in early September, according to Namaste Solar, an employee-owned cooperative that will design, develop, and construct the solar array.
The $3m project, which is being cost-shared between a $1.5m U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant and the Tribe, will offset roughly 15% of the energy used at 10 tribally owned buildings, equivalent to the electricity consumption of roughly 250 typical homes.
“DOE’s support of this project has been critical. In addition to grant funding, DOE has provided technical assistance to help the Southern Ute Tribe determine the best location for the solar facility and to evaluate potential business structures for the project,” said James Jensen, Southern Ute Alternative Energy Project Manager.
After more than a year of negotiations, the Southern Ute Tribal Council on Oct. 21, 2015, reached a deal with La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), the local electric cooperative in Durango, Colorado. Featuring interconnection agreements and power purchase agreements (PPAs), the deal will enable the tribe to interconnect its PV system, known as the Oxford Solar Project, to the LPEA grid and benefit from the energy generated.
The proposed community-scale solar facility will be located on nearly 10 acres of land approximately three miles from the main Southern Ute Indian tribal campus. This site was identified as the most suitable location for utility-scale development because the surrounding area has a strong solar resource, is located near two substations, has no known presence of threatened and endangered species, and has areas contaminated by naturally occurring selenium, which limits the land’s suitability for residential or agricultural use.