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Gila River Indian Community - 2012 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Gila River Indian Community
Location: Sacaton, AZ
Project Title: Renewable Energy Development and Deployment in Indian Country: Feasibility Studies
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-EE0005626
Project Amounts:
DOE: $210,000
Awardee: $0
Total: $210,000
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: May 2012
End: April 2014


The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) will conduct feasibility studies of potential renewable energy projects on its lands in south central Arizona. This effort follows GRIC's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG)- funded effort to develop a strategic energy plan designed to integrate with the Tribe's overall planning and economic development goals, and align with tribal cultural, social, political, and spiritual values. Located south of Phoenix, Arizona, GRIC lands are adjacent to metropolitan areas with significant renewable energy needs, suggesting a strong opportunity for commercial-scale renewable energy development. Efforts to evaluate both solar and biomass power production represent the next logical steps for GRIC to pursue renewable energy generation project opportunities. GRIC intends to evaluate projects consistent with its Strategic Energy Plan, and consistent with its energy and sustainability goals.

Project Description


GRIC has a long history of successful energy self-sufficiency efforts, including development of its tribal utility, the Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority (GRICUA), in 1998. In 2009, the Gila River Community Council passed a resolution establishing and authorizing a renewable energy team to plan and negotiate proposed renewable energy opportunities within the Gila River Indian Reservation. The resolution authorized the renewable energy team to 1) assess the efforts of any proposed new or improved renewable energy project(s); 2) formulate options for the council to consider as to the community's position for negotiations and dialogue with federal, state, and local governments concerning proposed renewable energy project(s); and 3) develop and implement a negotiation strategy for the community to achieve the negotiation goals the community council may adopt with respect to the renewable energy opportunities. In addition, the renewable energy team will also 1) promote energy efficiency and conservation throughout the community; 2) identify promising areas for community research and development; 3) review and/or draft community policies and regulations affecting development of renewable energy; and 4) develop incentives to attract clean energy industries to the community. Late in 2010, a several-year community master land planning effort was complete, resulting in development of a vision, strategies, and goals for each of GRIC's seven districts, and identifying specific areas for potential development. The district visions consistently identified commitments to GRIC alternative energy and energy efficiency, and a focus on energy self-sufficiency and economic development.

Project Objectives

Objectives of future renewable energy feasibility study efforts are consistent with the Tribe's energy plan and energy vision relating to energy self-sustainability, economic development, and job creation. These goals would be as follows:

  1. Evaluate the feasibility and technologies of two primary renewable energy project types:
    • Facility-scale solar projects serving GRIC; and
    • Commercial-scale solar and biomass power generation projects to provide supply for GRICUA supply distribution operations and/or provide power to nearby utilities serving the Phoenix metropolitan area.
  2. Identify the most viable projects of each type.
  3. Prepare development plans/budgets for each approved project.

Project Scope

GRIC's feasibility study efforts will focus on evaluation opportunities for renewable energy project development at several levels: facility- and commercial-scale projects at multiple locations across the Gila River Indian Reservation. Solar projects would be evaluated for multiple facilities, as well as for community-supply and commercial power generation potential. Biomass projects would be evaluated for community and commercial-scale applications only.

Solar Feasibility Study

Phase 1 – Identify Potential Projects: Intended to provide the GRIC project team with a comprehensive list of possible project concepts and includes the following tasks:

1.1 Characterize Resources
1.2 Evaluate Technology Options
1.3 Evaluate Project Sites
1.4 Evaluate Transmission Access
1.5 Estimate Project Costs
1.6 Provide Community Decision Support

Phase 2 – Evaluate Project Concepts: Intended to help the GRIC project team narrow the field of project options further with more detailed analysis of project concepts identified in Phase 1 and includes the following tasks:

2.1 Evaluate Transmission Injection Potential
2.2 Identify Potential Off-takers
2.3 Estimate Interconnection Costs
2.4 Identify Relevant Incentives
2.5 Evaluate Initial Project Economics
2.6 Provide Community Decision Support

Phase 3 – Project Development Planning: Intended to complete the final analyses and project planning necessary to prioritize and position short-listed project options and includes the following tasks:

3.1 Identify Equipment/Vendor Options
3.2 Refine Project Economies
3.3 Identify Development Partner Options/Ownership Structures and Develop Funding/Financing Plans
3.4 Provide Community Decision Support

Biomass Feasibility Study

Phase 1 – Resource Assessment

1.1 Prepare inventory information on standing tree volume.
1.2 Survey GRIC and locations within 50-mile radius of the community that generate biomass waste, including woody, agricultural, and green waste.
1.3 Quantify annual volumes of biomass available.
1.4 Assess quality of material available.
1.5 Test fuels for heating value, ash content, and moisture content.

Phase 2 – Wood Harvesting Plan

2.1 Develop a wood harvesting plan for the salt cedar to ensure a sustainable and cost-effective resource.
2.2 Survey community for equipment and potential contractors for logging, chipping, loading, harvesting, etc.
2.3 Develop a preliminary biomass processing plan for all resources deemed economically and technically feasible.
2.4 Identify jobs created and necessary for the business.

Phase 3 – Location and Facilities

3.1 Identify potential sites for the plant.
3.2 Analyze sites for key components: proximity to transmission, site access, flat lands, previously disturbed lands, ease of permitting.

Project Location

The Gila River Indian Reservation comprises 372,000 acres in south central Arizona in seven distinct districts encompassing over 600 square miles.

Project Status

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

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2011 funding opportunity announcement "Renewable Energy Development and Deployment in Indian Country" (DE-FOA-0000422) and started in June 2012.

The November 2012 and March 2014 project status reports provide more information.

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

Project Contact

Rudy Mix
PO Box 97
Sacaton, AZ 85147

Janet Bollman
PO Box 97
Sacaton, AZ 85147