The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has given an update on the Oxford Solar Panel project that has been in development since 2014 after the Southern Ute Growth Fund was awarded a $1.5 million grant for the approximate $3 million dollar project.
On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the Southern Ute Growth Fund started construction on an approximate 1-megawatt ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the Oxford area on 10 acres of previously disturbed land within the Southern Ute Indian reservation on Tribal Trust Land in La Plata County.
The solar project is expected to offset 15 percent of fossil fuel use by 10 tribally owned buildings, or about the equivalent of the electricity consumption at 250 common households. Solar energy facilities of these types have the tendency of lasting from 25 to 30 years, while providing cleaner energy than coal emissions, which is what most of the Tribe is powered by.
The Southern Ute Growth Fund’s objectives for the Oxford Solar Panel project is to reduce energy costs of the Tribe, increase tribal energy security through the use of local clean energy generation, and improve sustainability while increasing economic and environmental benefits through the development of clean energy.
The Southern Ute Growth Fund has worked with the La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) since the beginning of 2014 on details for connecting the one megawatt solar facility to LPEA’s electric distribution lines, with hopes of building more solar facilities in the future once the price of solar energy goes down.
In 2015 the Southern Ute Growth Fund entered a Power Purchase Agreement under which LPEA will form the Solar Project for a period of 25 years, as well as an Interconnection Agreement that will govern the connection of the solar project to the utility power grid. The project has grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, which specifies that the project must be built on tribally owned lands and that the electricity generated is for the benefit of the Tribe.
Additionally, the Southern Ute Growth Fund has facilitated the coordination with the Tribe’s grant administration specialists, Department of Natural Resources, TERO, and other Permanent Fund and Growth Fund departments to receive all necessary approvals and to make sure all environmental processes were adhered prior to the start of construction.
In 2016, the Southern Ute Growth Fund contracted Namaste Solar Electric, Inc. for the Oxford Solar project design and building services. Construction of the PV system should be competed in December of 2016.