Published January 21, 2016
SOBOBA INDIAN RESERVATION — The Soboba Band of Luisen͂o Indians and Optimum Group LLC have broken ground on the first of three solar power arrays that will meet nearly 35 percent of the reservation’s total energy needs.
Construction is scheduled to start immediately on the first phase of a 3 megawatt project with a 1 MW facility to be built in the eastern part of the reservation. It is believed to be the very first solar project on tribal land within Southern California Edison territory.
“Native people have long been ‘Keepers of the Earth,’ and with that, the tribe takes tremendous pride in this new environmentally safe development that is taking Soboba one step closer to becoming a self-sustaining tribe,” said Tribal Council Chairwoman Rosemary Morillo. “Each year brings both challenge and opportunity for growth. The experience we gain from past years can be applied as wisdom to serve us better in years to come. Taking the lead on bringing solar to our reservation will benefit all of us.”
Optimum Group LLC managed the entire process as the project developer and representative. That work included planning and engineering, applications, securing a $1 million federal energy grant and an aggregate net-energy metering agreement with Southern California Edison, following Rule 21 of the California Public Utility Commission, which allows for financial credit for power fed back to the local utility and for even distribution of energy credits in multi-user developments. Coldwell Solar is the contractor installing the system.
“Native American cultures have always understood the importance of sustainability in their quest to live in harmony with all things,” said Optimum Group President Ali Sahabi. “We were honored to help connect the Soboba tribe with the resources, programs and analysis necessary to make this project happen.”
Soboba began a comprehensive land-use master-planning effort in 2013 with assistance from Optimum Group. This led to the idea of a solar project that would demonstrate Soboba’s leadership in sustainable development. As part of this planning process, Optimum Group helped identify suitable sites for community-scale solar projects generating up to 3 MW of power (nearly 35 percent of the total energy needs for the Soboba Community).
The first MW array broke ground January 11 on the undeveloped eastern side of the community. It will power the administrative center, schools and other community buildings.
The second will break ground later this year at a second location near the first phase.
The third location is still in the planning stages.
This project is consistent with the values and traditions of the Soboba culture. Renewable energy is one of the most important elements of sustainable development and both are necessary to live in harmony with nature. This project allows the tribal center to operate using power generated from the sun.
“These solar arrays will give our community energy independence, free us from rising energy costs and reduce our overall carbon footprint on the environment,” Morillo said. “We are happy to be moving forward with this as a part of our new master plan.”
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