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The Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians broke ground this week on a solar project in northern California that's been six years in the making. 

The tribe, with a $32.75 million grant from the California Energy Commission, began construction on a 20 megawatt installation Thursday. The installation includes 5 megawatts’ worth of solar panels alongside 15 megawatt-hours’ worth of storage batteries. The project is targeted for a 2025 completion date, per a Paskenta Band statement. 

Tribal chairman Andrew “Dru” Alejandre said construction began after the CEC approached the tribe about a grant in 2018. After an array of feasibility studies and solving logistical challenges, the project was announced in full swing last year.  

“This is really our start on that journey to energy sovereignty and resiliency,” Alejandre said. “We really thought about how we want to govern ourselves and not have to rely on outside sources.”

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California state officials at the event praised the Paskenta Band-California partnership, as well as the project itself. The state’s Tribal Affairs Secretary Christina Snider-Asthari (Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians) said the project advanced the groups’ shared goals. CEC Chair David Hochschild said the commission was “honored” to partner with the Paskenta Band.

“This long-duration energy storage technology will add to the reliability of the energy grid,” Hochschild said in a statement. “This makes the Paskenta Band and California more energy secure.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom said the microgrid was part of a wider, state-wide trend toward clean energy. 

“California is showing the world how to fight the climate crisis while creating good jobs and more resilient communities,” Newsom said at the event. “We’re building more projects like these to secure a clean and reliable energy future that benefits all our communities.” 

Per prior Tribal Business News reporting, the microgrid will be built by Irvine, California-based Faraday Microgrids. The project will use flow battery technology offered by Brisbane, Australia-based Redflow. 

Once the project is completed, the tribe will retain total control over the circuit, according to tribal CEO Damon Safranek. 

The microgrid will generate 8 gigawatts of electricity annually — enough to power 700 homes, Safranek said. That gives the tribe enough power for their facilities, such as the Rolling Hills Resort and Casino, and room to grow. Having that level of “breathing room” on tribal power was crucial to future economic development plans, he said.  

“We’re creating a sustainable and reliable economy for future generations,” Safranek told Tribal Business News. “This project helps us reach that goal.” 

Alejandre echoed the sentiment. While he wouldn’t talk about the tribe’s future economic development plans, the new microgrid ensures those investments are safe, Alejandre said. 

“This is definitely a step in that direction, and we're only going to be adding more on,” Alejandre said. “This opens the door to our future development. Nothing's set in stone. We want to make sure we have the support and capacity for those new developments we may build out.”

Economic growth is already happening for the Paskenta Band: the tribe purchased Mad River Brewery from the Yurok Tribe last month.

About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Staff Writer
Chez Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is a staff writer for Tribal Business News. Based in Oklahoma, he focuses on broadband, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and federal policy. His journalism has been featured in Native News Online, Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Baconian Magazine, and Oklahoma Magazine, among others.
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