Almost on a daily basis, through the media or our own awareness, we are all reminded about the impact, the carbon footprint, we make on our planet. Over the last several decades our neighbors and community businesses have begun to look at ways to reduce their energy use and utility costs. Solar energy has always played a major role in these efforts and it continues to with government initiatives and local business expertise.
One local organization has taken a big step and made a substantial investment in reducing their future energy consumption and costs. More than a year ago, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians made a commitment to provide solar energy for Elder housing, their Tribal Government Offices and Community Building.
A large part of the funding was provided by a Department of Energy grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Through the grant process the North Fork Rancheria presented a proposal to minimize greenhouse gas and reduce energy consumption at their facilities, while providing job training for several tribal members.
In coordination with Offline Solar, Inc. of North Fork, and after a series of planning sessions with tribal leaders, Offline’s owner Don Loweburg set out to design a system that would provide maximum savings on a residential and commercial scale.
“Every system should have a customized design goal,” says Loweburg. “With the Rancheria project our goal was an energy saving of 40%. Generic, one-size-fits-all systems tend to be inefficient and provide less than optimal results.”
Recent evaluation reports show that after one year, the Offline designed and installed system hit the goal of a 40% savings on electrical utility costs. Christina McDonald, Administrative Assistant for the tribe’s Environmental Protection Department says, “The entire process, from planning through installation, went very smoothly.”
In addition to funding system design and installation, the Department of Energy grant provided valuable, on the job training in solar system installation for five tribal members.
McDonald mentioned, “Beyond the valuable training from Offline Solar, our Tribal Citizens have a real sense of accomplishment.” She goes on to say that after a year the results have been so positive in terms of costs savings that when it comes to future solar projects, “We are just getting started.” The tribal Elders who have had systems installed let her know that their PG & E bills are “really, really low.”
The North Fork Rancheria takes great pride in their forward-thinking commitment to renewable energy and looks forward to working with Offline Solar on future projects. According to McDonald, “After our open house to show off the new systems six or seven tribal members came up to me and expressed interest in having systems installed at their homes. We certainly hope we can utilize Offline Solar for future tribal projects.”