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San Carlos Apache Tribe - 2012 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: San Carlos Apache Tribe
Location: San Carlos, AZ
Project Title: San Carlos Apache Solar Feasibility Study
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-EE0005629
Project Amounts:
DOE: $217,361
Awardee: $34,142
Total: $251,503
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: June 2012
End: June 2013


Under this project, the San Carlos Apache Tribe will study the feasibility of solar energy projects within the reservation with the potential to generate a minimum of 1 megawatt (MW). The central objective of this study is to develop data and provide analysis that informs sound decision making regarding solar development on select sites, whether project development is led and managed directly by the Tribe or occurs in partnership with private development entities.

Project Description


The 2008 and 2011 versions of the San Carlos Apache Tribal Strategic Plan address energy policies and plans on the San Carlos Apache Reservation (Reservation). Strategic Plan energy elements include solar and biomass renewable energy projects, hydropower generation, and electrical transmission upgrades. National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) mapping indicates that the Reservation has the second highest rated level (5.5–6.0 kWh/m2/day) of solar resource potential. A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-funded Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (EECS) was adopted in November 2011.

The Tribe has taken a reasoned, methodical approach to designing and implementing energy policy and projects on the Reservation. The development of renewable energy technologies and generation is consistent with the Tribe's 2008 Strategic Plan, which states in part:

  • The Apache People will live a balanced life in harmony with spirituality, culture, language, and family unity in an ever changing world.
  • The Apache People shall create the infrastructure for our tribe to evolve and grow.

The Tribe is currently in Phase II of developing an EECS with DOE Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding. Phase I (completed late 2010) consisted of research on reservation and energy "profiles," and a complete first draft of an EECS, including tribal goals and objectives and the preliminary identification of renewable energy resources and initiatives. References to the Tribe's EECS in this grant application are based on a complete draft reviewed by tribal staff and the tribal community at a two-day energy summit in December 2010. The EECS is currently scheduled for adoption in late 2011. The EECS identifies solar energy as the Tribe's primary renewable energy initiative, and as one of the most practical and achievable near-term alternatives to begin implementing the Tribe's overall plans with respect to renewable energy generation. Renewable energy development will go hand-in-hand with the energy conservation initiatives in the adopted EECS.

The 2011 Tribal Strategic Plan is the most current adopted articulation of tribal goals. The Tribe's 2008 and 2011 Strategic Plan Summary specifically lists energy infrastructure development and a renewable energy solar project as key goals. The 2008 and 2011 Strategic Plan economic and infrastructure development sections reference energy business projects and improved electrical services. Demand-side management is also a critical component of an overall EECS to achieve a sustainable energy future.

The Tribe is taking a number of initiatives to reduce consumption, including residential energy audits, building energy efficiency upgrades, and education (associated with EECS development). The EECS defines other elements of an energy efficiency and conservation program, making solar power even more cost effective.  In implementing the 2011 EECS, the Tribe is planning to use EECBG funds for a solar PV installation on the tribal elder center. The Tribal Housing Authority is planning to use solar PV for a 120-unit residential community anchored by the new Bylas Elementary School. This school is under construction and will include a roof-mounted solar PV system.

Project Objectives

The Tribe's goals and objectives for proposed solar feasibility study and resulting solar facility(s) are to:

  • Develop solar renewable energy generation on the reservation
  • Reduce purchased energy costs by providing power directly to reservation facilities
  • Generate power sales revenues, further off-setting energy costs and funding other services
  • Develop skills and experience working in the energy sector among tribal members, and create tribal employment opportunities in operating and maintaining solar facility(ies)
  • Support the tribal sovereignty and the tribe's growing energy security and independence
  • Reduce the negative impacts of energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the Tribe's people and land.

To achieve these goals and objectives, the Tribe wishes to study the feasibility of solar energy projects within the reservation with the potential to generate a minimum of 1 MW.  This study will provide the Tribe with essential decision-making tools, including:

  • Site-specific renewable resource assessments and preliminary site planning
  • Tribal energy load assessment and local power needs and options
  • Potential export markets and power purchase agreements
  • Transmission and interconnection considerations
  • Analysis of appropriate and effective technologies and design
  • Preliminary system costing and phasing plan
  • Economic, environmental, cultural, and social cost/benefit analysis
  • Environmental impact assessments
  • A business plan, including needed job skills and professional development
  • Operating and maintenance plan and costing.

This study will determine the degree to which the above goals and objectives are achievable in whole or part, and establish a time frame within which solar facility development can occur.

Project Scope

Two phases will be conducted. In Phase 1, a two-part high-level feasibility screening will be undertaken. Sites to be evaluated in the initial phase will include the Highway/Winkleman sites, as well as additional sites generally within the Highway 70 and 170 corridors in the southwestern portion of the Reservation. Phase 1 criteria will focus on site physical suitability, associated limiting factors, and considerations such as accessibility and adequacy of transmission and transportation, and will preliminarily filter sites with respect to suitable solar power generating technology, and differences between larger community or commercial-scale developments.  Two to three "finalist" sites will be further analyzed in Phase 2, including the addition of element such as a business/financial plan and detailed cost/benefit analysis.

Phase 1 — Identification and Preliminary Assessment of Sites in Southwestern Reservation

  • Activity 1: Study Baselines
  • Activity 2: Conduct Site-Specific and Technical Analysis
  • Activity 3: Select "Finalist" Sites

Phase 2 — Detailed Assessment of Selected Sites

  • Activity 1: Power Load-Transmission-Market Analysis
  • Activity 2: Environmental Analysis
  • Activity 3: Re-assess Phase 1 Finalist Site Recommendations
  • Activity 4: Financial and Business Plan
  • Activity 5: Benefit Analysis (Economic, Social/Cultural)
  • Activity 6: Finalize Solar Feasibility Study

Project Location

The Tribe resides on a 1.8 million-acre reservation in south-central Arizona, approximately 90 miles east of Phoenix. The reservation covers parts of Gila, Graham, and Pinal counties. There are three main communities on the reservation—Bylas, Peridot, and San Carlos. San Carlos is just north of Highway 70 and, with a population of approximately 6,000, is the largest community and the location of tribal headquarters and most tribal offices.

Project Status

This project is complete. 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

Gail Haozous, Executive Director
PO Box 0
San Carlos, AZ 85550