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PROJECT OVERVIEW

Tribe/Awardee
Northern Pueblos Housing Authority

Location
Santa Fe, NM

Project Title
Picuris Pueblo Community Solar Array

Type of Application
Deployment

DOE Grant Number
DE-IE0000033

Project Amounts
DOE: $1,000,000
Awardee: $1,221,000
Total: $2,221,000

Project Status
See project status

Project Period of Performance
Start: September 2016
End: August 2017

Summary

The Picuris Pueblo Community Solar Array Project consists of constructing a 1-megawatt (MW) single- axis, ground-mounted solar array on six acres of an ideal 10-acre site on tribal trust land. The array will produce 2.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually of renewable energy from close to 3,800 photovoltaic (PV) panel modules. The power will offset the cost of the entire energy load of Picuris Pueblo, consisting of 50 homes and 12 tribal buildings. A substantial amount of planning and preconstruction work has been completed.

Project Description

Background

Picuris Pueblo is the smallest and poorest of New Mexico’s 19 Pueblo tribes. The Pueblo encompasses close to 17,000 acres of mostly forested land in a scenic mountain valley of the Sangre de Cristo Range in an isolated area between Santa Fe and Taos. The Pueblo has about 300 tribal members with 86 living at the Pueblo proper. The Northern Pueblos Housing Authority (NPHA) is a tribally designated housing entity (TDHE) that provides housing and community development services to the Tribe and acts on the Tribe’s behalf for the development of the solar array.

In August 2014, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-facilitated Picuris Pueblo Community Strategic Energy Plan was completed on behalf of the Pueblo of Picuris. One of the central consensus-based vision statements from the plan was to “encourage energy independence through self-generating clean energy, which demonstrates initiative and models innovative green leadership.” One of the key goals expressed in the plan was to have 100% renewable energy production on the Pueblo. This project was structured to meet this goal.

A substantial amount of NPHA-funded planning and preconstruction work has been completed, funded by NPHA, resulting in Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC), the power utility for Picuris Pueblo, signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) to purchase all of the power generated by the facility for a period of 25 years and will provide interconnection to the grid.

Project Objectives and Scope

The project objectives are to:

  • Develop the first fully solarized Pueblo in New Mexico by covering all electricity costs for the entire Pueblo of Picuris
  • Provide stable income for tribal government
  • Offset carbon emissions from the current energy load supplied through Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Inc.
  • Enhance Northern New Mexico’s green energy cluster profile
  • Create a replicable model for Indian Country using an innovative financial structure that combines private equity investment, tax incentives, and grant financing.

The solar array will provide long-term direct financial benefits to low-income tribal members as well as to the Tribe itself. The majority of the revenue from a PPA with the electric cooperative will accrue to the Tribe for the entire 25-year life of the project. The revenue will be used to offset the cost of the total energy load of the Tribe —both tribal buildings and residences—with substantial funds left over that will help to meet expenses of tribal administration and development. This project is anticipated to create between 1 and 1.25 FTE direct permanent positions and also fund an estimated 2 FTE of indirect tribal government jobs.

Specifically, the Picuris Pueblo Community Solar Array Project consists of the construction of a 1-MW single- axis solar array on a designated 10-acre site of tribal trust land with maximum insolation. The array will consist of close to 3,800 solar panels on approximately six acres of the 10-acre site. Required elements of the array include a racking system, tracking mounts, inverters, interconnect, wiring, conduit runs, junction boxes, and meters. There are both three-phase and 115-kilovolt (kV) power lines that are directly adjacent to the site. The solar array will interconnect to the three-phase line through an underground 24.9/14.4 kV cable that will run from the power pole to the switch gear or the transformer, depending upon the ultimate design of the system. KCEC will conduct a formal interconnect study. However, KCEC owns the line as well as a proximate substation and is familiar with area loads. KCEC is confident that the line has sufficient capacity. The energy generated by the solar array will be sold to KCEC by Picuris Pueblo and fed into the grid.

Project Location

Picuris Pueblo is the smallest and poorest of New Mexico’s 19 Pueblo tribes. The Pueblo encompasses close to 17,000 acres of mostly forested land in a scenic mountain valley of the Sangre de Cristo Range in an isolated area between Santa Fe and Taos. The 1-MW Picuris Pueblo Community Solar Array Project will be constructed on a designated 10-acre site of tribal trust land with maximum insolation.

Project Status

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

The project was competitively selected under the DOE 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 September 2016.

The November 2016, November 2017, and December 2018 project status report provides more information.