Wells Fargo announced today a philanthropic commitment of $5 million over three years to support solar projects in tribal communities across the U.S.
The donation to nonprofit GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making solar technology and training accessible to underserved communities, supports the founding of GRID’s new Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund. The fund is an extension of GRID’s National Tribal Program and aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities on tribal lands.
Support for the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund is a significant component of Wells Fargo’s $50 million philanthropic commitment to help address the unique economic, social, and environmental needs of American Indian/Alaska Native communities that was announced last year. Wells Fargo has been a major supporter of GRID’s state- and national-level programming since 2012.
GRID Alternatives’ national Tribal Program has worked since 2010 to help tribes achieve their renewable energy goals with solar, while training tribal members to enter the solar workforce. GRID has installed nearly 3 MW of solar capacity in partnership with more than 40 tribes to date. The new fund will expand GRID’s work and provide much-needed capital to support the development of new projects around the U.S.
The Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington, will be the first to benefit from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, with a grant that will unlock third-party investment capital and $1 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy for a 637 kilowatt solar project. When complete, the project will provide clean power and reduced energy bills for 14 tribal buildings, including elder housing, community facilities and tribal administrative offices.
“After a near disaster during the 2016 Cayuse Mountain Fire, the Tribe now places a premium on energy self-sufficiency,” said Tim Horan, Executive Director of the Spokane Indian Housing Authority. “We expect solar to play a big role in helping us achieve this, and the grant from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund was the last piece of the puzzle to make our first big project happen. We’re grateful to Wells Fargo and GRID Alternatives.”
The Spokane project, dubbed “Children of the Sun Solar Initiative” will be installed by GRID’s tribal team, which has already installed solar on five homes on the reservation. It is expected to break ground this fall, and will include hands-on solar training for tribal members and students.
Other projects slated for funding in 2018 will be announced in the coming weeks. An open application process for 2019–20 will launch early next year.