The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is moving closer to powering some of its buildings with electricity from its own solar plant.
The tribe received a grant for $1.5 million from the Department of Energy for the project, said Bob Zahradnik, operating director for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Growth Fund, and has until the end of the year to complete the terms.
The remaining piece of the puzzle is negotiating use of La Plata Electric Association lines to transmit the electricity from the 1-megawatt solar plant to about 15 tribal government buildings.
Construction of the plant on tribal land near Oxford will begin once the agreement with LPEA is in place. Power would be transmitted about 2 miles on LPEA lines.
The grant requires that the plant generate at least 15 percent of the electricity the buildings use, but the amount generated will be significantly higher than that, Zahradnik said.
“This won’t be a big deal to construct, because it’s all standard parts,” he said, “but the negotiations have been protracted. We don’t fit into one of their standard categories.”
The project is perfect for the tribe’s needs,” he said.
“Because it’s for offices,” he said, “peak usage will be during the day when the sun is shining.”
Indiana Reed, spokeswoman for LPEA, said she expects the tribe and the co-op to have an agreement to present to the board by its August meeting.