Tribal Program

GRID Alternatives helps tribal communities achieve their clean energy goals while providing financial savings and job training opportunities to improve their members' quality of life.

About the Tribal Program

Since 2010, GRID Alternatives has partnered with 40 Native American Tribes and 400 Native American trainees to install solar electric systems for more than 490 tribal member families. These systems are helping to provide needed savings and employment opportunities to tribal communities, which face some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States.

GRID was honored for our work with Tribal communities in 2013 by the U.S. EPA Region 9, and we continue to expand our partnerships with tribal communities across the U.S. We formally launched our Tribal program in 2014, and opened our first Tribal satellite office to serve families in the North Coast region of California.  In 2015, GRID held its first Tribal Solarthon where we installed 8 systems with 4 tribes across the country over a two week span, to raise awareness on the potential of solar PV and tribes.  In 2015, we completed 129 solar projects in Tribal communities and provided training for 125 Native Americans who completed over 6,500 hours of hands-on solar installation. Throughout 2016, our tribal work provided opportunities for 144 Native Americans to complete over 5,000 hours of hands-on training on 76 projects.


Current and Future Work

The Tribal HQ team, based in Denver, CO, works mainly with tribes that are not served by GRID regional offices. In the fall of 2016, we  completed ten projects with the Rosebud Sioux Housing Authority in South Dakota and six with the Chippewa Cree Tribe on the Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana. In Spring 2016, three off-grid systems were refurbished, two in Bird Springs chapter of Navajo Nation and one with Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, helping three families gain access to electricity once again. Click here to read more about these projects.

We expect to complete over 100 solar projects on tribal lands in 2017, including 56 installations with the Bishop Paiute Tribe, while providing hands-on job training experience and hiring tribal members through our Sub-Contracted Partnership Program.  

GRID Alternatives’ Tribal Program is also partnering with Tribal Colleges throughout the country to provide students with hands-on training to supplement their solar curriculum and exploring opportunities for energy efficiency combined with solar to maximize impact and cost savings.

To learn more about our tribal program or to partner with us, please contact Tim Willink, Director of Tribal Programs, at 303-968-1633 or tribal@gridalternatives.org.


Benefits of Solar Partnership

  • Savings of 75-90% on electricity costs for families
  • Clean, renewable energy whose source is non-imposing on land
  • Community participation and green jobs training
  • Employment opportunities through GRID subcontractors (California)
  • Turnkey model that includes outreach, education,  project management and installation services and industry-standard warranties
  • Leveraging of corporate, Federal and state solar funding

Positioned for Success

GRID Alternatives brings together all of the elements for successful solar projects in tribal communities. We have:

  • 10 regional offices across the U.S.
  • Dedicated Tribal program staff
  • A successful, replicable model
  • Extensive experience working with CA tribes and developing flexible procedures for their unique structures
  • Established partnerships with job training organizations, community groups, energy efficiency providers, and solar subcontractors to create a comprehensive low-income solar program.
  • Established relationships with foundations, corporate philanthropists, and government agencies that provide funding for solar projects.

Solar Project Financing

GRID finances solar projects with a mix of state and Federal incentives, grants, solar rebates, homeowner contributions, and fundraising. We work with our Tribal and agency partners to:

Identify Independent Funding Sources:

  • Short-term, project-specific funding including roofing issues and project costs
  • Longer-term funding to support larger scale solar deployment in Tribal communities

Incorporate solar funding requests into other Tribal funding/grant requests, related to:

  • Green jobs training/Workforce development
  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy

Highlights from our regional office tribal work:

San Diego

GRID San Diego has worked with five tribes (La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians, Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians) providing 90 families with solar at a total of 330kW.

They have been active with Solar Spring Break for three years with local tribes that include solar installations and a cultural component. Over 60 students from University of Michigan, Arizona State University, Claremont McKenna College have participated.

San Diego has trained 16 individuals from 3 local tribes and supported them as they build a tribal-owned energy company, Tekamuk Energy.  They are also working with the San Diego Tribal Energy Collaborative, consisting of San Pasqual, La Jolla, and Mesa Grande, to install solar for 40 families and on 2 tribal buildings with US Department of Energy funding.

Inland Empire

Inland Empire completed 196 tribal projects total and 77 in 2015.  Notably, IE has installed 84 projects with the Bishop Paiute Tribe. Bishop Paiute also utilized the first Solar Futures program training youth 16-24. Chemehuevi Indian Tribe has 85 installations completed and in 2015 Duke University students trained with GRID during Solar Spring Break at Chemehuevi.

2015 marked our first year working with both the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and the Torres Martinez Tribe.  Also, GRID IE was part of the first Tribal Solarthon and worked with the Bishop Paiute Tribe.  You can read more on the blog of the event.

North Coast

In 2014, through a generous donation from an anonymous donor of the San Francisco Foundation, GRID launched the North Coast satellite office to better serve tribal communities in the region. Working in the area since 2009, we have partnered with 17 tribes across Lake, Mendocino, and Humboldt Counties to provide solar for 136 families.

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