Pascua Yaqui Tribe - 2012 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Pascua Yaqui Tribe
Location: Tucson, AZ
Project Title: Pascua Yaqui Tribe Renewable Energy Development and Deployment Feasibility Study
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-EE0005633
Project Amounts:
DOE: $110,475
Awardee: $20,700
Total: $131,175
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: May 2012
End: December 2013

Summary

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe (PYT) Renewable Energy Development and Deployment Feasibility Study will determine the technical and economic viability of future renewable projects. Our study will assess commercial and community-scale solar development on rural Pascua Yaqui tribal fee lands located in an area of very high solar insolation levels. Tortuga Ranch, rural fee land of 6,289 acres, is located northwest of the PYT reservation. No specific site for commercial or community-scale solar development has been identified on the ranch. However, working with the Development Services office, the project stakeholders will identify and rank project sites for a potential solar facility with a power production (electricity) of at least 1 megawatt (MW).

The Tribe is also interested in evaluating a facility-scale solar development, or renewable for existing and tribally owned buildings. A tribal load assessment for the Casino del Sol hotel and conference facility will analyze the energy consumption patterns to determine the best photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal opportunities. Data from the loads assessment will be utilized in the technology analysis that will determine the recommended renewable applications, system sizes, combinations, and balance of plant requirements. The end product will have a power production to meet the minimum of 30% of a building's electrical and/or heating and cooling load.

Project Description

Background

Inspired by historical sovereignty and self-sufficiency, the PYT is seeking to provide increased economic opportunities by developing southern Arizona's under-explored resource: solar energy.

The market potential for a solar project is very strong. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is in one of the most active regions in the United States for renewable energy development and state incentives. Several states in the Southwest (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and California) have aggressive state Renewable Portfolio Standards. Currently, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) requires utilities to generate a minimum of 15% of their total retail energy sales from renewable sources by 2025.

Existing solar data indicates that the Pascua Yaqui tribal lands are located within an area of very high solar insolation levels. Data from the solar maps show outstanding potential for PV and concentrating solar power. The average daily concentrating solar radiation is within the range of 6–8.3 kilowatt-hours (kWh)/m2/day and the average daily solar radiation for PV is within the range of 6–6.8 kWh/m2/day.

The Pascua Yaqui Strategic Economic Development Plan champions the following vision:
"The Tribe will achieve economic self-sufficiency and financial prosperity through the diversification of their economy, which includes the pursuit of new business opportunities and partnerships . . ."

An economic development goal and recommendation resulting from the Strategic Plan unmistakably endorses the tribal government to "diversify the economic base and enhance revenue streams" and to "leverage assets and capitalize on limited existing resources."

Project Objectives

Just as the ancestral Yaquis of Sonora, Mexico, sustained life and farming culture by means of the land, sun, and environment provided for them, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe desires to continue the responsible development of its tribal lands in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner as a foundation for economic sovereignty and self-determination. The long-term energy vision of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe is to be a leader in environmental stewardship and become electrically self-sufficient and reduce overall energy consumption through renewable energy.

Inspired by historical sovereignty and self-sufficiency, the PYT is seeking to provide increased economic opportunities by developing southern Arizona's under-explored resource: solar energy. The Sonoran Desert region provides more than 300 sunny days a year, and the Tribe has the land asset of Tortuga Ranch to potentially develop a solar facility with a power production (electricity) of at least 1 MW and utilize solar energy to its full potential.

The Tribe is also seeking a sustainable resource to offset the costs of increasing energy consumption and energy demands generated by the operation of the existing and tribally owned Casino del Sol hotel and conference center facility. In addition to energy cost savings, the Yaqui people aspire to bring new energy into the marketplace while providing financial benefits to the community in an environmentally responsible manner. The end product will have a power production to meet the minimum of 30% of a building's electrical and/or heating and cooling load.

Market revenues associated with solar energy development would be a significant improvement to the economy of the PYT and is forecasted to reduce the Tribe's high reliance on gaming revenue. Casino revenues are used to fund a large percentage of tribal government operations and services, ranging from fire and police protection to providing health care and education. Understanding the full degree to which power can be generated within tribal lands will solidify the Tribe's ability to improve its infrastructure, reduce utility energy consumption, and provide cost savings, thereby enhancing economic development to support vital services to tribal members.

Realization of the economic goals of the Tribe will be directed by the following measures:

  1. Conducting a feasibility study to evaluate the Tribe's solar energy resource development potential and marketability. The final report for both commercial/community and facility-scale solar applications will include decision-making tools for the Tribal Council to make informed and economically based decisions.
  2. Pursuing commercial and/or community-scale solar development that provides jobs and economic revenues to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and its members.
  3. Pursuing commercial/community and facility-scale solar development that decreases the costs of energy consumption and reliance on utility energy.
  4. Creating an institutional culture of conservation and sustainability by reducing the Tribe's impact on the environment and continuing to develop tribal lands in a responsible manner as a foundation for economic sovereignty and self-determination.
  5. The Tribal Council of the PYT, acknowledging that the Renewable Energy Development and Deployment Feasibility Study proposal meets the vision and goals of the Strategic Economic Development Plan, thereby, unanimously approved the resolution.

Project Scope

The following tasks will be conducted for the proposed studies: (1) Tortuga Ranch; and (2) Casino del Sol Facility

Tortuga Ranch Commercial/Community-Scale Study Activities

Task 1 – Resource Assessment
Task 2 – Siting Analysis
Task 3 – Environmental Assessment
Task 4 – Market Analysis
Task 5 – Transmission Access/Interconnection Study
Task 6 – Technology and Preliminary System Design Analysis
Task 7 – Business Opportunity Assessment
Task 8 – Economics
Task 9 – Tribal Benefits and Professional Development Planning
Task 10 – Project Development Planning

Casino del Sol Facility-Scale Study Activities

Task 1 – Casino Loads Assessment
Task 2 – Economic Analysis
Task 3 – Technology and Preliminary System Design Analysis
Task 4 – Tribal Benefit and Professional Development Planning
Task 5 – Project Development Planning

Project Location

Pascua Yaqui Tribe is a federally recognized Native American Tribe of more than 17,000 enrolled members. The reservation, known as "Pascua Pueblo" is located 13 miles southwest of downtown Tucson, Arizona. More than 4,000 tribal members live on the reservation, as well as several thousand nonmember residents that have married tribal members, with the remaining members residing primarily in established Yaqui communities throughout Arizona.

Tortuga Ranch, rural fee land of 6,289, is located northwest of the Pascua Pueblo Reservation and west of Tucson. The Casino del Sol is a 240,000-sqare-foot facility is located on tribal trust land on the northwest side of the reservation.

Project Status

The 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 Part I and Part II of the March 2014 status report provide more information.

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

Project Contact

Maria Arvayo
744 Camino de Oeste
Tucson, AZ 85757
520-883-5000
maria.arvayo@pascuayaqui-nen.gov

Kelly Gomez
744 Camino de Oeste
Tucson, AZ 85757
520-879-6319
Kelly.gomez@pascuayaqui-nen.gov