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Clean-energy nonprofit GRID Alternatives said this week it received a $25 million grant that will help fund its accelerator program to increase renewable energy projects in Native communities. 

The funding injection from Palo Alto, Calif.-based Waverley Street Foundation will support GRID’s Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund (TSAF), a tribal-led grantmaking program to support new solar projects throughout Indian Country. TSAF grants fund renewable energy infrastructure projects and leadership development programs for tribal communities, Native individuals and tribal-led 501(c)3 organizations.  

The new funding injection will significantly expand TSAF's support for tribal solar projects and help reduce carbon emissions, drive down energy costs, and create employment opportunities within Native communities, according to a statement.  

The Waverley Street Foundation is a philanthropic organization committed to driving positive change in underserved communities, supporting initiatives that promote sustainability, equity, and economic development. 

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The collaboration with GRID underscores WSF's commitment to empowering tribal sovereignty by allowing tribes greater control over their energy resources, reducing reliance on non-renewable sources.The grant is anticipated to not only enhance energy infrastructure but also promote education, job training, and economic diversification within tribal communities.

“We believe supporting federally recognized Native American tribes to develop energy sovereignty can equitably reduce carbon pollution while supporting thriving livelihoods, increasing resilience, and assisting tribes in achieving their renewable energy goals,” Carole Excell, the foundation’s strategy director, said in a statement. “TSAF is a crucial partner in helping WSF understand community renewable energy projects at scale.”

Tanksi Clairmont (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate), tribal development director for GRID Alternatives, highlighted the significance of philanthropic support in addressing pre-development and technical assistance needs crucial for building energy resilience in Indian Country.

"The biggest needs we hear from our tribal partners are investing in the pre-development and technical assistance work needed to build energy resilience, so philanthropic support and investment from the Waverley Street Foundation comes at a time when Indian Country is dismantling the inequities of the energy crisis, environmental and social justice issues through building renewable energy infrastructure," Clairmont said in a statement. 

The impact of this grant is expected to extend beyond its initial investment, with both TSAF and WSF committed to a long-term collaboration ensuring the benefits of clean energy reach tribal communities for generations, according to the statement.

GRID Alternatives’ national tribal program started in 2010 to help tribes achieve their renewable energy goals with solar, while training tribal members to enter the solar workforce. In 2018, GRID expanded its efforts with the launch of the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, which focuses on supporting tribes and tribal individuals for renewable energy projects, fellowships, internships, and scholarship programs. The fund aims to catalyze the growth of solar energy and expand solar job opportunities in tribal communities.

The fund expects to launch a new funding opportunity in the spring of 2024, with grants to support capacity building among TSAF’s past, current and new community of tribal partners.  The grants will be  significant, flexible, multi-year funding for general operating support, capacity building, and enhancing energy and sustainability expertise that reinforces tribal sovereignty, according to the TSAF’s winter 2023 newsletter.

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