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The Bishop Paiute Tribe said it completed the first tribal solar project under the California Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program.  It's the latest in an ongoing effort that has outfitted more than 200 tribal homes with solar energy to help its citizens save money and reduce the tribe's carbon footprint. 

The tribe said it finished the installation of a 49 kW DC solar system at Coyote Mountain Apartments, an affordable housing and sober living facility in Bishop, Calif. The system is part of the tribe's sustainable energy plan, which aims to improve energy efficiency for reservation residents through the addition of renewable energy resources. 

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The $180,666 solar system is expected to generate enough electricity to power all 24 homes at Coyote Mountain Apartments. The tribe estimates that the system will save residents $473,747 on their energy bills over the next 20 years. The system will also reduce the tribe's carbon footprint by 600 tons per year.  The project also created one job for a tribal member who took part in the installation as a paid trainee. 

The project was funded through a combination of SOMAH Program incentives, a grant from the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund Sempra Foundation, and an in-kind donation from the Bishop Paiute Tribe.

Coyote Mountain is one of two multifamily housing projects the tribe is working on through the SOMAH program. The tribe is also installing rooftop solar at its Arrowhead Apartments as part of a project that it expects to complete later this year, according to the tribe’s environmental director, Brian Adkins. 

Once the residential rooftop solar installations are completed, the tribe hopes to install battery storage and level-2 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at the two properties, Adkins told Tribal Business News. The battery storage will store energy generated during the day for use at night and during peak demand periods, while the EV chargers will encourage residents to switch to electric vehicles. 

The recent projects represent a fraction of the 208 single-family solar projects the tribe has completed over the past decade in partnership with nonprofit GRID Alternatives’ Inland Empire (GRID IE) office. Since 2013, the partners have installed more than 700 kilowatts of rooftop solar for tribal housing and trained 60 members of the Bishop Paiute tribe.

"From our first solar installation with the Bishop Paiute Tribe 10 years ago, to this most recent and historic solar project at Coyote Mountain Apartments, GRID IE is proud of its decade-long partnership of delivering renewable energy solutions and job-training opportunities to tribal residents,” Jamie Alonzo, executive director of GRID IE, said in a statement. 

The recent projects are part of the tribe’s ongoing vision to energy self-sufficiency while preserving cultural traditions, protecting the environment, and developing its economy through sustainable and efficient use of resources.

The tribe’s energy plan for the future includes more than residential properties. Plans include developing microgrids for critical facilities, administration, commercial park, casino/hotel, and community solar projects, Adkins said. 

"The Tribe continuously looks for improvements that benefit our tribal members and the community,” the Bishop Paiute Tribal Council said in a statement. “This project took a lot of planning and execution, and we hope other Tribal communities can look to us as an inspiration and bring similar projects to their communities. We don't want to take the credit for this amazing achievement. That credit belongs to all of those involved from start to finish, who made this project come to fruition."