Finding new alternatives to greener energy

Cloe Seibel | SU Drum

As a tribe we find ways to evolve with the times, thanks to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Growth Fund, the Tribe has achieved a major milestone toward developing solar energy throughout 10 tribally owned buildings on the Southern Ute Reservation.

In 2015 the Southern Ute Tribal Council created an agreement with La Plata Electric Association (LPEA), the local electric cooperative in Durango, Colorado. The deal will enable the Tribe to interconnect its 1-megawatt solar Photovoltaic (PV) system, known as the Oxford Solar Project, to the LPEA grid and benefit from the energy generated.

What does it mean for the tribe to go Solar? The tribe’s economy relies heavily on its oil and gas business and the Growth Fund is aware that the resources will not continue indefinitely. Thinking about the benefit for future generations the Tribe, along with the Growth Fund has sought out to diversify its business by moving into alternative energy.

In 2008, the Tribe created Southern Ute Alternative Energy, LLC (SUAE) as a for-profit business to start its business in alternative energy. Solar project developments have been evaluated on tribal lands since 2008 but project costs are too high to make pursuing them economical.

This year it has become a reality, the $3 million project is being cost-shared between a $1.5 millions U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Tribal Energy Program grant and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

With 600 PV solar panels, the 800-kW facility is located on the Oxford Site off of Highway 172, it was determined the best location on the reservation. The project covers nearly 10 acres of previously disturbed and mostly unusable land.

There will be an onsite dedication for the Oxford Solar Project to be held on Monday, July 24 at 1:30 p.m.

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