Project Overview

Tribe/Awardee

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

Location

Towaoc, CO

Project Title

UMUT Solar Initiative

Type of Application

Deployment

DOE Grant Number

DE-EE0000095

Project Amounts

DOE: $973,820

Awardee: $1,196,576

Total: $2,170,396

Project Status

See project status

Project Period of Performance

Start: September 2017

End: September 2019

Summary

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (UMUT) will construct a 1-megawatt (MW) community-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) facility as its first solar development project. The system will offset at least 10% of the Tribe’s overall energy usage beginning in the first year, impact more than 75 tribal buildings, and save an estimated $157,440 annually.

Project Description

Background

The UMUT is located in the Four Corners area where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. The reservation covers more than 550,000 acres in three states. The Tribe’s long-term energy goals outlined in its 2014 Feasibility Study are to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to increase tribal capacity for self-determination through the deployment of energy-efficiency measures, and community-scale and commercial-scale renewable energy systems.

UMUT has long looked to clean energy to achieve their vision of reducing reliance on fossil fuels while increasing capacity for self-determination through community-scale, renewable energy systems. In 2012, UMUT was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Tribal Energy Program to assess the feasibility of building and operating a community-scale solar energy facility or facilities that can generate 1 megawatt (MW) or more of electrical power. The resulting feasibility study was completed in 2014, and it identified the 99-acre “Hayfield” site as one of the best locations for a solar energy project. DOE grant funds allowed UMUT to identify the most appropriate technology and solar system to address initial needs, leading to the inclusion of a 1-MW solar PV system in this proposal.

Project Objectives and Scope

The goal of this project is to construct a 1-MW community-scale solar PV facility on tribally owned land to increase the Tribe’s ability to develop, own, operate, and maintain solar facilities. The long-term goal of this project is to support the Tribe’s vision of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, while increasing its capacity for self-determination by deploying community-scale, renewable energy systems and measures.

The project objectives include: 1) deploy the first phase of the overall community-scale solar energy vision outlined in the Tribe’s 2014 DOE-funded Solar Energy Feasibility Study; 2) strengthen current partnership with the local rural electric cooperative (Empire Electric) and their wholesale provider (Tri-State Electric) to better enable UMUT to understand how to expand future solar, hydro, battery, and other community-scale renewable energy projects; 3) conduct, at the end of the first year, an in-depth analysis of the solar array’s performance, operation and maintenance, and impact of crediting structures and the array’s output on UMUT’s goal to reduce and stabilize energy costs on the reservation; and 4) evaluate, at the end of the second year, outcomes of Phase I and begin planning for the second-phase deployment of renewable projects.

Project Location

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation is located near Towaoc, Colorado, and represents more than 900 square miles of the Four Corners area of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The seat of tribal government is the town of Towaoc, Colorado, which is located just over 2 miles west of US 160/491 and is about 18 miles north of the New Mexico-Colorado border. Elevations range from more than 4,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level and the area encompasses 582,321 acres. The specific project location will be at the “Hayfield” Site, a 99-acre parcel of tribal land adjacent to the entrance to the reservation with good exposure and access to Route 160.

Project Status

The project was competitively selected under the DOE Office of Indian Energy Fiscal Year 2016 funding opportunity announcement “Deployment of Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy on Indian Lands – 2017” (DE-FOA-0001660) and started in September 2017.

The November 2017December 2018November 2019, and December 2020 project status reports provide more information.