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Native American Schools in Arizona to Install Wind Turbines: A Wind Powering America Success Story

July 30, 2012

Thanks to funding from the Arizona Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF), eight Native American schools in the state recently received $1.3 million to build renewable energy systems in their communities. Wind Powering America's Arizona Wind for Schools project supported the development of three of the funded proposals: the Hopi Tribe Renewable Energy Office proposal ($65,000 for 5 kilowatts [kW] wind and 3 kW solar to benefit Moenkopi Day and Hopi Day schools), the Southwest Windpower/Westwind Solar proposal ($236,000 for 12 kW wind and 7 kW solar to benefit Little Singer, Dilkon Community, Leupp, Shonto Preparatory, and NATIVE schools), and the STAR School proposal ($95,000 for 7 kW wind and 1.5 kW solar). In addition, $253,000 will be used to provide wind power to an assisted living facility for the Hopi Office of Elderly Services.

REIF is managed by Grand Canyon Trust, Salt River Project, and Tucson Electric Power. In 2009, REIF received $5 million in funds following the expansion of the Springerville Generating Station coal plant to support projects that reduce pollution and benefit Native American communities in Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. In addition to the $5 million settlement, the owners of the Springerville Generating Station agreed to install state-of-the-art pollution controls on the expansion, as well as upgrade pollution controls on the existing units.

According to Roger Clark, program director for the Grand Canyon Trust, REIF decided to concentrate funding efforts on tribal lands where tax credits and other incentives for renewable energy aren't available.

"The Wind for Schools projects were a good fit for a variety of reasons," Clark said. "It puts wind in schools, helping to reduce their utility bills, and it of course comes with educational programs and curricula to help educate people about renewable energy."

Karin Wadsack, state facilitator for the Arizona Wind for Schools project and research assistant at Northern Arizona University, and her team worked with the various entities that applied for the REIF funds, including Southwest Wind Power, West Wind Solar, the Hopi Tribe, and the STAR School. The Arizona Wind for Schools team facilitated the efforts of the applicants, who wrote their own proposals and conducted site visits. The Arizona Wind for Schools team will continue to provide support for these projects, including hosting teacher training and providing curricula for the classroom, as well as continue ongoing work with the Native schools. For example, they recently hosted a teachers' workshop at Leupp Schools Inc., where another Salt River grant funded the installation of three wind turbines on 70-foot towers.

"Over the course of this coming year, it's vital for us to visit every school that installs a turbine shortly after and host a workshop that shows them where their data is and how to access it and also show them activities to use in their classes," Wadsack said.

Clark believes that the funding for these types of renewable energy projects is essential for making them a reality.

"I know of no other funding source like ours that is doing what we're doing. For the people on the receiving end, it's critically important. These projects may not happen otherwise," Clark said.

—Julie Jones