The Viejas Tribal Government will conduct a feasibility study for the formulation of a renewable-energy-based tribal utility and for the development of renewable energy technologies to ensure long-term electric price stability and increased investment opportunities. The vitality of Viejas' business developments and the reservation as a whole depends on the provision of safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy.

Project Description

The intent of the project is to conduct a feasibility study to investigate the incorporation of renewable energy in Viejas' overall strategic energy plan. The vitality of Viejas' business developments and the reservation as a whole depends on the provision of safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy. The objective of this project is to ensure this by developing the capability to provide electricity to the reservation through renewable resources. It is expected that the project will directly enhance the local environment, further improve employment conditions, contribute to self-sufficiency, and bolster the overall economic condition of the tribal electricity users through lower bills and enhanced reliability.


Only a few years ago, Viejas Reservation unemployment was as high as 80 percent. Sixty percent of the housing was substandard. Today, due to revenues from tribal enterprises, the situation has improved substantially. These enterprises include the Viejas Casino and Turf Club, Viejas Outlet Center, recreational vehicle parks, and the Borrego Springs Bank.

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay is one of approximately 12 bands of the Kumeyaay Indian Nation, and numbers approximately 281 members. The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay is a federally recognized tribe. A two level, sovereign, democratic government presides over the tribe. The General Council, which includes all of the Band's adult voting members, elects the Tribal Chairman, Tribal Council, and by law, votes on all land use decisions. Consisting of six members and the Tribal Chairman, the Tribal Council governs tribal activities and makes law. The Tribal Council also serves as the "Board of Directors" for Viejas enterprises.


Viejas' goal is to find opportunities to ensure long-term electric price stability, electric supply reliability, and viable investment opportunities. The objectives are to investigate the applicability of available renewable energy technologies for use as primary electricity generation in a Tribal utility. The objective of this project is to investigate the feasibility of forming a renewable energy based tribal utility for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indian Nation, located near San Diego, California. Specific study objectives include the following:

  • Assessment of renewable energy resources / technology (solar, wind, biomass) specific to the reservation

  • Development of a detailed reservation load profile

  • Assessment of energy storage and load management opportunities to help shape the load profile

  • Analyses of electrical interconnection options ranging from larger sizes (to allow bulk power export) to complete severance (to form a separate renewable energy mini-grid for the reservation)

  • Audit of the existing distribution system to determine condition and value

  • Legal analysis of the regulatory implications for forming a tribal utility

  • Optimization study to determine most cost effective generation and load management mix

  • Assessment of environmental issues

  • Assessment of tribal benefits (employment, cultural, and social)

  • Economic assessment of the integrated renewable energy utility

  • Development of a business plan for the renewable tribal utility aligned with overall tribal goals

  • Participation in the Tribal energy Program review meeting

Scope and Approach

The proposed project approach and sequence of tasks is shown in the figure below. Generally, the study will investigate which renewable technologies are optimal for the environment of the Viejas Reservation. This decision will be based on the projected load profile of the reservation and renewable resource availability and technology characteristics. The POWEROPT generation mix optimization model will determine the best mix of resource to minimize cost while ensuring high reliability of supply. Candidate technologies include solar, wind, biogas, biodiesel, and thermal storage and demand side management strategies.

The electric utility formation study requires further investigation primarily in three areas: (1) a distribution system audit to determine the value of the existing utility electric system, (2) analyses of the various interconnection options, and (3) a legal review to verify the legitimacy of the proposed utility. Based on these investigations, the discounted cash flow analyses will be performed to gauge the economic viability of the various options. In addition, environmental and tribal benefit studies will be conducted, and an outline of a business plan for the tribe to follow to implement the project will be presented.

Project Location

The reservation proper is around 1,600 acres, and is located in central San Diego County near Interstate 8, just east of Alpine. In addition to the main reservation land, Viejas also has an interest in the Capitan Grande Indian Reservation, located just north of the main reservation. This area of land consists of almost 16,000 acres of largely uninhabited rugged land adjacent to the El Capitan Reservoir. Both areas of trust land are surrounded by the Cleveland National Forest. Although the potential electric utility will only serve the Viejas reservation, either of the areas are potential sites for renewable energy generation plants to be investigated in this study. The Viejas reservation land is most appropriate for self-generation, while the Capitan Grande area provides opportunity for large power stations designed to provide excess power to the market.

Project Status

This project is complete. For more, see the final report and appendices.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's FY2002 solicitation, "Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands" and started July 2003. For additional information, see the project presentations from November 2003, October 2004, and October 2005.

For other information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Jamal Kanj
Director of Public Works
Viejas Tribal Government
1 Viejas Grade Road
Alpine, CA 91901
Phone: (619) 659-2346
Fax: (619) 659-2337

Allen Dennis
Project Manager
Black & Veatch
Phone: (913) 458-7885
Fax: (913) 458-2934

<p><strong>Tribe/Awardee</strong><br />Viejas Band of Mission Indians</p><p><strong>Location</strong><br />Alpine, CA</p><p><strong>Project Title</strong><br />Feasibility Study for the Formation of a Renewable-Energy-Based Tribal Utility</p><p><strong>Type of Application</strong><br />Feasibility</p><p><strong>DOE Grant Number</strong><br />DE-FC36-03GO13019</p><p><strong>Project Amounts</strong><br />DOE: $158,164<br />Awardee: $38,715<br />Total: $196,879</p><p><strong>Project Status</strong><br />Complete</p><p><strong>Project Period of Performance</strong><br />Start: July 2003<br />End: December 2004</p>