Wells Fargo to donate $5 million to tribal community solar projects | FirstNationsFocus.com

Wells Fargo to donate $5 million to tribal community solar projects

First Nation's Focus

Members of the Tesuque Pueblo Tribe in New Mexico stand in front of a completed solar system installed by GRID Alternatives.

RENO, Nev. — Wells Fargo announced Aug. 28 it plans to donate $5 million over three years to support solar projects in tribal communities across the U.S.

According to a Wells Fargo news release, the donation to nonprofit GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making solar technology and training accessible to underserved communities, supports the founding of GRID's new “Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund.”

The fund is an extension of GRID's National Tribal Program and aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities on tribal lands.

"Our strong relationships in Indian Country and with our Native American customers are a point of great pride at our company," Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. "We are pleased to have such an effective working relationship with GRID Alternatives and to provide the seed funding for its Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund.

“We sincerely believe that providing no-cost solar and job-training opportunities in tribal communities will address critical needs and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy."

The move is reportedly part of Wells Fargo's $50 million philanthropic commitment to address economic, social and environmental needs of American Indian/Alaska Native communities that was announced last year.

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GRID Alternatives' national Tribal Program has worked since 2010 to help tribes achieve renewable energy goals with solar, while training tribal members to enter the solar workforce.

GRID has installed nearly 3 megawatts of solar capacity in partnership with more than 40 tribes to date. The extra $5 million will reportedly expand GRID's work and provide much-needed capital to support the development of new projects around the U.S.

"Many tribes are looking to renewable energy to address both environmental and economic challenges in their communities," Adam Bad Wound, Vice President of Development for GRID Alternatives, said in a statement. "Access to funding is often the biggest barrier to achieving their goals, and we're excited to be able to partner with even more tribes to move their solar PV projects forward."

The Spokane Tribe in Wellpinit, Washington, will be the first to benefit from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, with a grant that will unlock third-party investment capital and $1 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy for a 637 kilowatt solar project.

When complete, the project will provide clean power and reduced energy bills for 14 tribal buildings, including elder housing, community facilities and tribal administrative offices.

Another confirmed grantee is the Chemehuevi Tribe, and the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians.

According to GRID Alternatives, projects slated for funding in 2018 will be announced in the coming weeks. An open application process for 2019–20 will launch early next year.

For more information, visit http://www.tribalsolar.org.