Project Overview

Blackfeet Community College

Browning, MT

Project Title
Blackfeet Community College Sustainable Energy Project

Type of Application

DOE Grant Number

Project Amounts
DOE: $183,960
Awardee: $20,441
Total: $204,401

Project Status
See project status

Project Period of Performance
Start: 11/1/2020
End: 10/31/2023


Blackfeet Community College (BCC) will install approximately 53 kilowatts (kW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on four buildings on the BCC campus, including the Red Fox-Business Division, Little Star Blackfeet Child Care, Medicine Shield Higher Education Fitness Center, and the Muskrat Lodge Media Center. These systems will displace about 66% of the electricity used in the four buildings and save an estimated $5,500 annually, or approximately $165,000 over the 30-year life of the systems.

Project Description


The Blackfeet Indian Reservation, established by treaty in 1855, is home to the 17,321-member Blackfeet Nation. The Reservation is located in northwest Montana. BCC is located on the Blackfeet Reservation, which includes 1.5 million acres managed by the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. BCC is chartered by the Blackfeet Tribe and is a fully accredited Higher Education Institution by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

BCC staff and faculty have a long history of coordinating research and partnerships that advance learning through the BCC mission and vision. Energy development is not new to BCC. Plans began in 1998 though the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension program to launch and maintain an off-grid greenhouse with upgrades to the water system using wind power generation. In 2001, wind turbines were installed on the Vo-ed Workforce Facility. BCC built the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum, South Wind Lodge in 2010. The facility is a smart building with a solar PV array. The facility was the first LEED Platinum facility on a college campus in Montana. Currently the Blackfeet Tribe is embarking on a long-term energy development plan. The Tribe and BCC have partnered in the past to launch renewable energy and capacity-building efforts on the Reservation to support residents in wind energy. Challenges in having a workforce trained in maintenance of systems from past projects proved to be a need.

Project Objectives

The goals of this project include: creating access to solar and renewable energy benefits for the Blackfeet community, lowering the operational costs of the BCC, and creating an educational opportunity for students to learn about renewable energy, explore career pathways, and participate in workforce development and hands-on paid training for students and community members. These project goals align well with the long-term energy goals of BCC. BCC is committed to generating sustainable energy on its campus and bringing clean energy benefits to the Blackfeet Reservation more broadly.

This project is part of longer phased energy plan for the BCC campus and will serve as a demonstration of solar PV on larger facilities. An Energy Demonstration Park will be completed on the campus and will include wind, geothermal, and solar for demonstration purposes for agriculture and energy technologies. The installations on the four facilities will be the first facility upgrade demonstration on campus. The upgrades will support energy cost savings for facilities prioritized for long-term use.

Project Scope

The project scope includes installing 53.2 kW of solar PV on four BCC campus buildings. Campus facilities identified were prioritized for installation because of their location on campus, roof orientation, and new roofing. The four facilities include the Red Fox-Business Division, Little Star Blackfeet Child Care, Medicine Shield Higher Education Fitness Center, and the Muskrat Lodge Media Center.

The primary scope of work consists of the development; design; engineering, procurement, and contracting; and installation, training, and commissioning of solar PV generating systems totaling 53.2 kW-DC across four buildings. BCC students and tribal job trainees will assist with the installations, gaining valuable hands-on experience and workforce development training. System performance will be monitored for at least one year following interconnection. Expected results include up to 10 students trained for the duration of the installation and significant annual cost savings for BCC.

Project Location

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation, home to the 17,321-member Blackfeet Nation, is located northwest Montana. The Blackfeet Community College is located on the Blackfeet Reservation.

Project Status

The project is complete. For details, see the final report and project status reports.

The project was competitively selected under the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy’s Fiscal Year 2019 funding opportunity announcement "Energy Infrastructure Deployment on Tribal Lands - 2020" (DE-FOA-0002168) and started in November 2020.