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Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California - 2010 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California
Location: Gunderville, NV
Project Title: Washoe Tribe Alternative Energy Feasibility Study
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-EE0002523
Project Amounts:
DOE: $249,827
Awardee: $0
Total: $249,827
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: April 2010
End: July 2012


The main goal of the proposed feasibility project is to create a Comprehensive Feasibility Project Plan based on the feasibility study that identifies which alternative energy resource offers the greatest return per dollar on Washoe land and determines whether a large-scale alternative energy project is an economically viable alternative for the Washoe Tribe to invest in given current technology while respecting cultural and environmental values.

Project Description


The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California is a federally recognized Indian tribe organized pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934 (48 Stat. 984), as amended. The Washoe Tribe has a long commitment to the restoration of tribal lands and the aboriginal homelands. It is an experienced governmental body in administering numerous grants and contracts and maintains its own written constitution, bylaws, corporate charter, and codes. The tribe is governed by a 12-member, elected tribal council that includes two representatives from each of the four community councils, two off-reservation representatives, a Reno/Sparks Indian Colony representative, and a tribal chairman elected at large. The chairman and Washoe Tribal Council are elected to four-year terms.

The Washoe Tribe has more than 5,000 acres in northern Nevada and parts of California. The renewable resources in this area are abundant. This area is rated as number four in the country for energy resources. It ranks high in solar, wind and geothermal potential and has an abundance of biomass. Biofuels are also an option in this agricultural area. There is so much energy development potential on Washoe lands that the best option for investment is not immediately evident without further research. The tribe does not want to invest in one particular resource without knowing which one is the best option. In order to capitalize on these resources, a feasibility study is essential and urgent. The proposed project will provide this information and help the tribe chose the best energy development option.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the proposed project are to:

  • Determine the feasibility of a large-scale project by identifying transmission lines, determining possible load capacity demand, and discussing a power purchase agreement with NV Energy
  • Determine energy demand of administrative, commercial and residential buildings on tribal land
  • Determine energy demand based on export market
  • Collect and analyze existing and new data of renewable energy resources on Washoe tribal land including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and biofuels
  • Identify funding opportunities
  • Identify tribal parcels best suited for alternative energy development.


The proposed project will begin by meeting with key stakeholders, businesses and organizations to discuss the political, economic and social realities of a large-scale energy project. WEPD will work with surrounding counties, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the state of Nevada, the University of Nevada Reno (UNR), Desert Research Institute (DRI) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and regional companies regarding alternative energy goals, available data, surveying equipment and anemometer loans.

The majority of the proposed project will be data collection and analysis. In order to determine the technical and economic viability of commercial renewable energy, WEPD, will begin by evaluating the number of heating and cooling days. Then WEPD will collect all available information including alternative energy resource maps from DOE, BLM, USFS, the state of Nevada, UNR, DRI, and USGS related to solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and biofuel production in northern Nevada. Next WEPD will overlay these resource maps with maps of Washoe Tribal Land to identify data gaps that require additional data from the field to determine the best locations to place anemometers and geothermal test wells. After data gaps and testing sites are determined, WEPD will perform environmental assessment and cultural resource surveys for all data collection sites as needed. Anemometers will be installed using laser surveying devices, collecting data monthly for one year and taking them down. Solar measurements will be taken using a pyrometer to confirm existing solar data.

Methods for Resource Assessment

  • Solar Resources — WEPD staff will use a pyrometer to test solar strength and confirm existing data.
  • Wind Resources — Anemometers will be installed (using laser surveys to determine their erectness) and data will be collected for one year. The project data will be presented to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for review in addition to customary industry standard analysis.
  • Geothermal Resources — Using a consultant/contractor, approximately fifty 2-meter-deep temperature surveys (such as those used by UNR) will be utilized on tribal land.
  • Biomass Resources — WEPD staff will calculate the amount of accessible biomass on tribal land and the cost of processing it and hauling it to Carson City in order determine if it would be cost effective.
  • Biofuel Resources — WEPD staff will meet with the local biofuels distributor, Bently Biofuels, and will research alternative crops.

After all of this data is collected, WEPD staff will analyze the results and prepare a feasibility study. This study is intended to result in a Final Comprehensive Feasibility Project Plan sufficient for organizational development. This plan will include a summary of the results from meetings with NV Energy, including the potential for a power purchase agreement that will determine the potential export market. If positive, the report will review discounted cash flow and free cash flow options. Using data analysis, the Alternative Energy Task Force will give a final overall recommendation of the best renewable resource for the tribe considering current technology, resource potential, energy demand, operating costs, fastest cost recovery time, preliminary capital required, cultural and environmental impacts, and funding availability. Ultimately, this plan will be used in the development of a detailed engineering and construction plan.

Project Location

The Washoe Tribe now has approximately 19 noncontiguous parcels totaling 5,236 acres in six different counties between California and Nevada. The majority of the Washoe Tribe’s reservation land is located in the beautiful Carson Valley in northwestern Nevada and Alpine County in central California.

Project Status

This project is complete. For more, see the final report.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2009 funding opportunity announcement "Assessing the Feasibility of Renewable Energy Development and Energy Efficiency Deployment on Tribal Lands" and started in April 2010.

The November 2009 and November 2011 project status reports provide more information.

For current project status or additional information, please contact the project contact.

Project Contact

Marie Barry
Washoe Tribe
919 US Hwy 395 South WEPD
Gardnerville, NV 89410

Mistia Zuckerman
Washoe Tribe
919 US Hwy 395 South WEPD
Gardnerville, NV 89410