Little Big Horn College

Crow Agency, MT

Project Title
Little Big Horn College Solar PV Array

Type of Application

DOE Grant Number

Project Amounts
DOE: $160,090
Awardee: $53,363
Total: $213,453

Project Status
See project status

Project Period of Performance
Start: August 2016
End: June 2018


This proposed project is to install a 45-kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) system at the Health and Wellness Center on the campus of the Little Big Horn College to reduce the baseline electricity load of 424,200 kilowatt-hours (kWh) by approximately 16% to 354,810 kWh.

Project Description


Little Big Horn College (LBHC) was established in 1978 under the Tribally Controlled Community Colleges Assistance Act and chartered by the Crow Tribe in 1980. Under a unique relationship passed by tribal resolution, LBHC enjoys wide autonomy to pursue its academic mission while existing under the umbrella of the Crow Nation and tribal policies.

The LBHC is committed to becoming the first net-zero emissions “green” tribal college campus in the United States. The first of what is hoped to be additional solar arrays will be the exemplar by which future growth on campus is measured. Dollar savings from the reduction of electricity purchased will allow LBHC to continue to retrofit existing campus buildings and improve and expand energy systems.

LBHC has developed a long-term and strategic vision for smart growth on campus to include new construction following Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines and retrofit weatherization and energy efficiency measures on existing campus buildings. The Health and Wellness Center is the most efficient building on campus with smart-energy measures built throughout that will naturally complement the solar-produced electricity created by this project.

Project Objectives and Scope

The objective of the project is to install a 45-kW solar PV array on the roof and as awnings at the 25,000- square-foot Health and Wellness Center on the campus of the LBHC in Crow Agency, Montana. The installation will displace greater than 16% of the current electricity requirements at the Health and Wellness Center and save LBHC more than $6,600 in operating costs annually. This savings will enable LBHC to fund additional energy efficiency and future renewable projects.

The Health and Wellness Center on the campus of the Little Big Horn College was constructed in 2009–2010, and, in accordance with long-term campus sustainability goals, was designed to accommodate a future solar array. The 25,000-square-foot space hosts inter- and intra-collegiate sports like basketball. It is the flagship structure and figurative center of campus life. The Health and Wellness Center also offers weightlifting and exercise space as well yoga, aerobics, and nutrition education. The approximately 450 LBHC students take advantage of this space to learn, socialize, and play.

The front of the building faces due east to receive the morning sun per traditional Crow structures, and the array as proposed will be installed on the south side of the building for maximum solar exposure. The PV system will be interconnected to the Big Horn County Electric Cooperative (BHCEC). LBHC will enter into a net-metering agreement with BHCEC allowing excess energy to be put onto the grid in exchange for a credit.

The immediate benefit from the proposed project will be savings of more than $6,600 annually that LBHC will be able to use to fund additional energy efficiency and future renewables projects. Over the life of the array LBHC expects to save well over $250,000 in electricity costs. This correlates to approximately 236,769 kBtu of energy draw or 50,688.5 pounds of carbon dioxide eliminated each year. The six trainees—two paid jobs for enrolled Crow members at install, two for continuing education on campus, and two for operations and maintenance—will gain knowledge and be better prepared to join the clean tech economy in the future.

Project Location

The LBHC is located at 25 Bita in Crow Agency, Montana. The college campus is located in the town of Crow Agency on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, adjacent to the Crow Indian Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Crow Tribal Administration Office is located within two blocks of the campus.

Project Status

The project is complete. For additional details, see the final report.

The project was competitively selected under the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy’s Fiscal Year 2015 funding opportunity announcement “Deployment of Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects on Indian Lands – 2015” (DE-FOA-0001390) and started in August 2016.

The November 2016 and November 2017 project status report provides more information.