Project Overview

Winnebago Tribe

Winnebago, NE

Project Title
Winnebago Tribe Solar Project

Type of Application

DOE Grant Number

Project Amounts
DOE: $76,347
Awardee: $76,347
Total: $152,694

Project Status
See project status

Project Period of Performance
Start: March 2014
End: February 2016


Following through with the Winnebago Tribe's commitment to reduce energy usage and consumption, the Winnebago Tribe Solar Project will focus on renewable energy production and energy cost savings consistent with protecting our natural environment. The objective of this project is to reduce the most recent 12 months of fuel use of the Winnebago police and fire building (the project site) by 30% within two years with the production of renewable energy. Installation of a 23-kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system will reduce the amount of energy purchased for the building and provide a source of energy for the police and fire departments for continued operations should grid power be unavailable. Powering this building at all times is essential to ensure the safety and well-being of tribal members and residents of the entire reservation.

Project Description


The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is a small federally recognized tribe organized pursuant to Section 16 of the Act of June 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 984), (25 USC 476) as amended by the Act of June 15, 1935 (49 Stat. 378). The reservation is located primarily in northeast Nebraska, 30 minutes south of Sioux City, Iowa, and two hours north of Omaha, Nebraska. A small portion is located directly east on the Iowa side of the Missouri River in Woodbury County, Iowa. Approximately one-half of the tribe's nearly 5,000 members live within the 128-square-mile reservation boundaries.

The tribe has a history of evaluating renewable energy alternatives, including wind analysis and feasibility for small- and large-scale energy supply, and has made a commitment to implement energy efficient measures wherever and whenever possible. The first active tracking solar PV system in Nebraska was installed by the tribe's economic arm, Ho Chunk, Inc., in 2010. Ho Chunk, Inc. also uses personal wind units for two of its subsidiary companies and stationary solar PV panels for another subsidiary.

The tribally owned community college, Little Priest Tribal College, carries out the tribe's vision with classes on renewable energy. The college also uses two wind generators and a solar PV system for classes and renewable energy generation for its building operations. The tribal headquarters building is being renovated with energy efficiency measures that include insulation and new highly energy efficient windows and doors. A new state-of-the-art early childhood education center is under construction and will include a geothermal energy system. Also, the tribe's maintenance and operations plan includes the use of energy efficient fixtures whenever replacements are made.

The above measures are a testament to the tribe's long-term energy goals, which include:

  • To substantially reduce the energy consumption and environmental impact of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska's buildings, motor vehicles, and systems in order to enhance the quality of life of future generations.
  • To design and construct new buildings and facilities as well as acquire vehicles with a focus on reduction of energy costs and environmental impact by up to 40%. The energy costs of buildings will be mitigated through the use of geothermal energy systems.
  • To create behaviors among tribal leadership and employees that base decisions on the conservation of energy with a focus on renewable alternatives.
  • To implement a weatherization program that will analyze current energy consumption as well as look at various options to reduce energy consumption in tribally owned buildings and residential structures.

Project Objectives

The objective of this project is to reduce fuel use of the Winnebago police and fire building by 30% within two years through the installation of a 23-kW solar PV system and provide an alternative source of power for continued operations should grid power be unavailable.

The solar project will provide both economic and environmental benefits to the tribe, with the reduction of energy costs achieved through the use of renewable energy generated power for the police/fire building. By focusing on solar-generated power, the tribe will be able to address the first of its long-term goals outlined above. The solar project serves as a continued demonstration of the importance of decision making and continually looking for ways to conserve energy with a focus on renewable alternatives such as solar.

Project Scope

Implementation and installation will begin with the Winnebago Tribe's project manager initiating the procurement process with the tribe's vendor list. The project manager will draw on the expertise of the physical resources director and the tribal engineer in this process for project technical aspects. Once the negotiation process is complete and the contract in place, the precise layout placement of the installation will be confirmed with the engineering survey of the roof by the tribal engineer. The contracted entity will order the equipment, and the components, when received, will be inventoried and placed on the roof for installation. The racking will be assembled and panels mounted. Alternating and direct current wiring will be completed and the system commissioned. The project manager, physical resources director, and tribal engineer will observe to ensure a quality installation is completed by the contractor. The project manager will record energy usage throughout the project period and will record and compile readings from the inverters for the project narrative report.

Specifically, the installation of the solar system on this critical community building will be implemented using the following six steps:

  1. NEPA and the Addressing of Special Conditions
  2. Selection of Vendor for Solar Equipment Procurement and Installation
  3. Vendor Selection and Application Submittal to Nebraska Public Power District
  4. Installation of Energy System
  5. Energy Usage Data Collection
  6. Fuel Use and Savings Verification.

Project Location

The project site is located in the village of Winnebago on the Winnebago Indian Reservation in northeast Nebraska. The Solar Project will assist the Winnebago Tribe power a single yet crucial building within the community—the police/fire building. The 8,000–square-foot masonry block/steel joist police/fire building was built in 1978.

Project Status

This project is complete. For details, see the final report

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2013 funding opportunity announcement "Tribal Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Deployment Assistance" (DE-FOA-0000853) and started in March 2014.

The March 2014 and May 2015 project status report provides more information.