The Northern Cheyenne Tribe selected Indigenized Energy Initiative to develop the White River Community Solar Project. This Native-led nonprofit aims to empower Native American communities and provide them with the skills and resources necessary to harness the clean and regenerative power that solar can offer. The project will include a small commercial, residential, and 1 MW utility-scale solar photovoltaic system across the Northern Cheyenne reservation. The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which requires the Tribe of Montana to contribute 20% in matching funds. IEI is seeking donors and sponsors for this important project.
The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, located in the coal-development region of Eastern Montana has been staunch in resisting fossil fuels. The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council adopted a resolution in 2016 to pursue renewable energy. The White River Community Solar Project marks the first step of the Tribe’s efforts to generate all its energy from renewable sources. It also creates jobs and drives economic development.
“Solar energy offers us a chance to regain our independence and stop reliance on fossil fuels,” says 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.”
Red Cloud Renewable, a Lakota Sioux-based education and training organization in sustainability, will partner with IEI to create and deliver specialized training programs that will equip Tribal members with the job skills necessary to build these projects.
Three types of solar projects will also be built as part the White River Project. These include a large array in Busby, which will be shaped according to the Morning Star pattern; three smaller systems that offset electricity at Busby High School, a Head Start facility, and water pumping stations; and 15 residential solar system to 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,” explains 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.”
“The White River Community Solar Project is a major focus of IEI’s fundraising efforts this year,” comments Cody Two Bears, co-founder of IEI.