Pala Band of Mission Indians – 2015 Project

Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs

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Summary

The Pala Fire Station Solar Project involves the installation of an approximately 94.8-kilowatt (kW) DC solar system. The system will use a combination of rooftop PV and ground-mounted panels that will be installed on land adjacent to the Pala Indian Reservation’s fire station.

The Pala Fire Station provides essential community services and enhances tribal capacity and community resilience. The 25,059-square-foot facility includes office space, a kitchen, living space, and dormitory rooms for firefighters. It also includes an equipment bay for an engine, ladder truck, and ambulance, as well as ancillary storage rooms. A separate 3,210-square-foot-building is designated as an emergency operations facility and training center. This center is used for fire department trainings as well as community events. It is equipped to serve as a command center for emergencies, including wildfire, floods, earthquakes, and homeland security incidents.

Project Description

Background

The Pala Indian Reservation is in northern San Diego County in California, approximately 30 miles east of the Pacific Ocean and 53 miles north of downtown San Diego. It is located approximately 6 miles east of Interstate 15 on California State Highway 76. The Reservation is approximately 13,000 acres and is home to about 1,350 residents.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians (“the Pala Band”, “Pala”, or “the Band”) has long-term energy goals that include significantly decreasing its reliance on grid-supplied energy. Concerns about global climate change have spurred the Tribe to transition to renewable energy sources, including solar and wind. Pala already builds every new home for tribal members with rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) and uses solar-powered street lighting in new neighborhoods. The ultimate energy goal for the Band is to have all major facilities—including the Pala Casino Resort and Spa and the Pala Administration Center—powered by renewables and to achieve full energy independence from the grid.

The Pala Band is pursuing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that will decrease reliance on fossil fuels. Current energy supplied to tribal facilities includes propane, solar PV electricity, and grid-provided electricity. Renewable energy sources are ideal for both tribal self-sufficiency and environmental benefits. Solar and wind power are the most likely options for renewable energy development on the Pala Reservation. The most likely facilities to receive future solar PV energy are the Tribal Administration Building and the Pala Casino Resort and Spa.

There are three solar PV demonstration projects already in place on the Reservation. The first was completed in 2008. An EPA grant helped to establish a solar PV array on top of the tribal solid waste transfer station. The Tribe also received a rebate from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) as part of the California Solar Initiative program.

Pala’s second project was set up as an add-on to its housing development program. The Tribe built a subdivision; and the utilities included solar street lighting. Designing, purchasing, and installing the lights were all part of the overall project. Outside contractors and builders were responsible for the actual installation, with the Tribe performing oversight.

The third project on the Reservation was a small demonstration solar array on top of the fire station (the proposed project location). In building this project, the inverter system included automated reporting that allows constant monitoring and reporting of solar electricity production and system performance. The primary funding for this project came from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. The Tribe also received a CSI rebated from SDG&E.

Project Objectives

The goal of this project is to install a solar PV system to displace approximately 95.5% of grid-based electricity for the Pala Fire Station, a building that provides essential community services. Additional project objectives are to reduce dependence on power provided by SDG&E and reduce fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions. This will be achieved through the installation of an approximately 92.4-kW PV system on the roof of the fire station and on an adjacent ground parcel. These efforts integrate with the Tribe’s long-term goal of using renewable energy sources to power the majority of tribal facilities, including the Pala Casino.

The proposed project will displace about 145,896 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually from the grid, most of which is produced by fossil fuels. As a result, over the estimated 25-year project life, the Tribe’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be reduced by about 2,991 tons of CO2. The Pala Fire Department’s annual electricity bill will be reduced by approximately $24,437 in the first year and approximately $1,300,648 over the life of the system. The expected outcome is that the fire station will be almost 100% independent of grid-generated electricity and will be fully powered by renewable solar energy.

Project Scope

The scope of this project includes system design and engineering, site preparation, purchase of equipment and supplies, equipment installation, system testing, inspection by SDG&E, system activation, troubleshooting, final activation, and verification of the energy displacement. It also includes the electrical system upgrades needed to accommodate the new PV system. The system will displace about 95.5% of the total electricity needs for the Pala Fire Station.

Project Location

The Pala Band of Mission Indians is located in northern San Diego County, where a majority of the 918 enrolled members live on their 12,273-acre Reservation, established for Cupeño and Luiseño Indians, who consider themselves to be one proud people: Pala. The Pala Fire Station is a 25,059-square-foot facility that was constructed in 2007 on trust land on the Reservation.

Project Status

The project was competitively selected under the DOE Office of Indian Energy Tribal Energy Deployment Program's fiscal year 2015 funding opportunity announcement “Deployment of Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects on Indian Lands” (DE-FOA-0001021) and started in July 2015.

The May 2015December 2016, and December 2018 project status reports provide more information.