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Technical Assistance for Tribes

NREL's State, Local, and Tribal program partners with Native American Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and other federal agencies, non-profits, and intertribal organizations to provide resources and direct assistance that support clean energy technology delivery and connect motivated tribal governments with NREL's world-class science and analytics.

American Indian land comprises approximately 2% of the total U.S. land base, representing an estimated 5% of the total U.S. renewable energy generation potential. With a high value placed on community self-sufficiency and self-determination, tribes and Alaska Native Villages are well positioned to lead the clean energy market by providing scalable sustainable community models that are transferable to state, local, and national governments. 

Percentage of Total Tribal Generation Potential Represented by Renewable Technologies: 66% Solar PV (Rural, Utility Scale), 28% Concentrating Solar Power, 5% Wind, .06% Hydropower, .02% Biomass (Solid), .02% Geothermal (Hydrothermal). The majority of tribes are in the western United States particularly north eastern Arizona and Oklahoma.

Energy Decision Support

To connect tribes with credible, timely, and actionable scientific information on which to base their energy decisions, NREL provides the following tailored programs:

  • Technology and Market Analytics. NREL provides credible research and analytics to identify impactful opportunities for clean energy development on tribal lands. Drawing on NREL's deep scientific and technical knowledge related to clean energy, and core capability of clean energy analytics, NREL provides tailored information to tribal leaders and other stakeholders to inform energy decision making.

  • Direct Technical Assistance. NREL has been working with tribes to solve clean energy challenges since 1995, with 122 high impact interactions occurring between 2012 and 2015. Currently, tribes have cost-free access to NREL expertise through DOE's Office of Indian Energy. NREL is also the primary strategic partner and deliverer for the DOE's Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START), a program specifically designed to increase clean energy deployment on tribal land and create replicable models and strategies for state, local, and tribal governments.

  • Capacity Building. To effectively deliver clean energy technologies to market, governments, program administrators, and technology end users, NREL provides technology, market, and stakeholder communications strategy trainings to tribes. Current trainings are offered through the DOE Office of Indian Energy.

  • Resilience Assessment and Planning. NREL provides renewable energy community assessments to identify climate vulnerabilities and help develop solutions. Leveraging extensive experience in disaster planning, response, and recovery, NREL works with tribes to develop community specific plans and strategies to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. One such example is the community of Galena, Alaska.

A photo of a rooftop photovoltaic installation on the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe Administration Building.

Forest County Potawatomi Tribe

Renewable Energy Projects Help Tribe Reduce Carbon Footprint

Programmatic impacts reflect NREL's ability to connect world-class science and engineering research with tribal governments to directly access the benefits of clean energy for their members and create groundbreaking replicable models for broad adoption of clean energy technologies. One such example is Forest County Potawatomi. Look for other examples of NREL work on the DOE Office of Indian Energy's blog.

For guidance on tribal energy projects see the DOE resource library and education and training offerings.

Contact Us

To partner with us or for more information on how NREL connects world-class science and engineering with tribal priorities to create models for clean energy development nationwide, please contact Elizabeth Doris.

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