On July 24, 2017, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe held a dedication ceremony in honor of its newly commissioned and fully operational Oxford Solar Project on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Ignacio, Colorado. The 1.3-megawatt (MW), ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system is located on a nearly 10-acre parcel of mostly unusable tribal trust land known as the Oxford Tract, approximately three miles from the main tribal campus. Through an agreement with local electric cooperative La Plata Electric Association, the grid-connected system will help offset the energy use of 10 tribal buildings, enabling the Tribe to benefit directly from the energy generated. The $3 million project was cofunded by the Tribe and a $1.5 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy grant awarded in 2014.
In addition to financial support, the Office of Indian Energy provided technical assistance for the project beginning in 2013 through its competitive Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. Under START, the technical team provided site validation and economic analysis support to the Tribe.
“The Oxford Solar Project is reflective of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s long-standing business diversification strategy, which includes investing in alternative energy for the benefit of future generations,” said Project Manager Brent Brown. “While the Tribe’s economy relies heavily on its businesses in oil and gas, the Tribe is aware that these finite resources will not continue to produce indefinitely.”
In addition to advancing the Tribe’s goal to diversify its economic base, the community PV system will fulfill project-specific objectives, including:
Reducing operating costs for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe by offsetting roughly 15% of energy used by 10 tribal buildings over the projected 30-year life of the system
Increasing tribal energy security through the use of indigenous solar energy generation
Improve sustainability and increase economic and environmental benefits to the tribe through the development of a clean-energy business operation
Building the capacity of the tribe to develop additional clean energy projects.
“Southern Ute has been evaluating solar PV development opportunities for almost a decade, and the matching grant from DOE helped make this project economically viable,” said Brown. “DOE’s support of this project was pivotal. Today’s dedication represents the culmination of our shared efforts to bring a viable, long-term, clean-energy operation to Southern Ute tribal lands.”