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Touring First Solar's 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project located on the Moapa River Reservation. From left to right: Office of Indian Energy Director Chris Deschene, Office of Indian Energy Senior Policy Advisor Doug MacCourt, National Renewable Energy Laboratory Engineer Sherry Stout, Moapa Band of Paiutes Vice Chairman Greg Anderson, and Office of Indian Energy 48 Contiguous States Program Manager Sarai Geary. Photo from Sam Scucci, First Solar
Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy hosted a two-day energy track and booth at the National Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas. After a busy few days at the conference, I had the opportunity to join Office of Indian Energy Director Chris Deschene, Senior Policy Advisor Doug MacCourt, and Program Manager Sarai Geary on a visit to a solar project on the Moapa River Reservation. Located 30 miles north of Las Vegas, the 250-megawatt solar photovoltaic project is being built by First Solar and is providing jobs and training for members of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians (Moapa Paiutes).
The Moapa River Reservation project is incredible in both scale and in how the Tribe has partnered with First Solar. The Moapa Paiutes are leasing the land for the solar array to First Solar, and through that process, ensured that the company would implement a tribal hiring preference program. Native Americans now comprise roughly 25% of the labor force on the array construction site. Of those, more than 40 employees are members of the Tribe.
According to Greg Anderson, Vice Chairman of the Moapa Paiutes, “Every Moapa who wants a job on the site has one.” Additionally, once construction is finished, seven of the long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) jobs will be filled by Native workers. First Solar has also committed to training two members of the Moapa Paiutes in technical solar O&M. This training will include classroom and hands-on learning, as well as job skills education such as interview techniques.
The solar array on the Moapa River Reservation has created revenue, jobs, and long-term economic development opportunities for the Tribe and, once commissioned, will supply valuable clean energy to the grid. This project is a great example of a tribe utilizing land and available renewable resources to further economic development through energy projects.
The Office of Indian Energy provided technical assistance to the Moapa Paiutes when the project was first being explored, and worked with the Moapa tribal government to identify other possible solar projects. Learn more about how the Office of Indian Energy helps American Indians and Alaska Natives maximize the development and deployment of their energy resources through education and training, technical assistance, and funding.
- Written by Sherry Stout, Engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory