From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):
The Ute Mountain Ute tribe broke ground [March 13, 2019] on a $2 million solar project that will be used to lower electricity bills for tribal residents in Towaoc.
An 8-acre hayfield west of the Ute Mountain Casino will be transformed into a 1 megawatt solar array with 3,500 panels facing skyward. Construction is expected to take six to eight weeks, and after testing, the switch will be flipped on in June or July…
“This as a step forward for the tribe to become energy independent and self-reliant,” said Bernadette Cuthair, tribal community services director. “We want our tribal members to sign up to learn the solar trade.”
The project was funded by a $973,000 grant from the Department of Energy and a $1 million match from the tribe. It will be the largest solar array in Montezuma County.
The tribe partnered with Grid Alternatives, an organization that works to provide renewable energy to low-income communities.
“We believe the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy should include everyone,” said Brittney Heller, workforce organizer for Grid Alternatives.
Tribal members must sign up to receive solar discounts on their electric bill by April 30. They will bring their Empire Electric Association account information to the tribe’s planning department or environmental office, and reduced bills will start to show up in July or August.
An opportunity to sign up for discounts will happen every year. Government offices will also see electric bill savings from the project.
The project will create 13 temporary jobs and offer free training in the solar industry. Volunteer days allow tribal members to help build the project and learn skills.
Four three-month paid internships are being offered for tribal members to work on the project and receive training. Applications are being accepted. Workers will also be recruited from the tribe’s job force division.