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Spokane Tribe Goes Solar

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The Spokane Tribe is joining the green energy revolution. On Thursday, tribal officials held a ceremony to celebrate the installation of solar panels on more than two dozen tribal buildings and homes.

Carol Evans is the chairwoman for the Spokane Tribal Business Council. She says the project was inspired by a wildfire that burned uncomfortably close to the reservation.

“When we had the fire back in 2016, we lost power here. The fire came right up to the community. You know, it just gave us ideas on how we need to do something with renewable energy. We do have a sovereign powers enterprise that is developing a renewable energy plan for the Spokane Tribe and part of that plan is solar,” Evans said.

Half of the two-million-dollar solar initiative was paid for by a federal Energy Department grant. The other half came from private match.

“This is the first of a couple of steps. We’d like to return to the Department of Energy and now they’re doing two million dollar match funding. We’d do an even larger project and get all of our managed units under solar and then create a micro grid and have battery storage. It won’t be until we get battery storage that we’re going to be independent," said Tim Horan, the executive director of the Spokane Indian Housing Authority.

The project also a Native economic development aspect.

A crew of Native solar professionals from Denver has spent the last several weeks installing panels on the tribal longhouse, several tribal government buildings and about two dozen homes. That crew included six Spokane Tribal members who were trained for the initiative.