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Ramona Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians - 1999 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Ramona Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians
Location: Anza, CA
Project Title: Renewable Energy Housing and Ecotourism Project
Type of Application: Development
DOE Grant Number: DE-FC48-99R810675
Project Amounts:
DOE: $182,000
Awardee: $213,824
Total: $395,824
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: October 1999
End: September 2002


The Ramona Band of Cauhilla Indians is establishing an ecotourism facility on their Reservation at the southern end of the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California. Because the location is far off-grid, and because of the Band's desire to make the facility as ecological as possible, they plan to use renewable energy as much as possible to provide heat and electrical power to the facility. Electrical power will be provided by several decentralized photovoltaic systems, as well as one or more wind turbines. A propane-powered internal-combustion engine/generator will provide backup power when necessary. Solar hot water systems will provide heated water for bathing and service hot water for the facility.

A HUD grant awarded to the Tribe in 1999 provided approximately $102,000 for electric power lines, mini-grids, and related environmental impact studies. All power line route options had to go through USFS and BLM, and had to be underground, which would create a visible scar 20' wide along a 7 to 9 mile route causing erosion problems and negative view shed impacts. The total cost of this line would approach $115,000 and utility rates would begin at 12.8 cents per kWh plus a surcharge, and could increase each year by as much as 10-15%. After considering a number of economic development projects, the Tribe decided to develop an ecotourism and training business powered by renewable technologies. Such a project fits well with the Tribe's desire to preserve natural resources, generate tribal revenues, offer job opportunities to tribal members, and benefit other tribes by providing information and training in renewable energy technologies and applications.

All thermal energy loads will be met with solar thermal systems with propane backup. Other renewable energy systems to be incorporated include:

  • Housing Complex/Water Pumping/RE Micro-Grid Hybrid System Configuration
    • 10kw wind turbine capacity with controls
    • 1.5kw large photovoltaic modular array
    • Dual axis solar tracking units
    • Cool cell batteries plus storage box
    • Continuous inverter
    • 12kw propane generator
    • Two propane storage tanks

  • Ecotourism Infrastructure Macro-Grid Hybrid Power System
    • 40-50kw wind turbine capacity with controls
    • 10kw photovoltaic modular array
    • 20 dual axis solar tracking units for PV array
    • FLA (forklift) battery banks (not all centralized)
    • 15kVA continuous inverter with 175A disconnect
    • 20kw propane generator integrated rectifier
    • Power station building 12' x 16'
    • Monitoring system, inverter, breaker box, wiring, etc.

Project Description

The drawing shows an artist's rendering of a concept for a manufactured EcoTent that might be used on the Ramona Reservation as a part of the Band's planned Ecotourism facility.  The tent consists of a metal frame with roof and walls made of a multi-layer fabric.  A wind turbine is mounted on a tower just behind the tent platform.  On either side of the EcoTent is a solar hot water tank and a solar shower.  Electricity is provided from photovoltaic panels with battery storage.

Manufactured EcoTent concept for the Ramona Ecotourist facility.

The project has produced significant results that will support and are helping to achieve the objectives, which are:

  • To demonstrate the reliability, cost-effectiveness, market potential, and replicability of a variety of renewable energy power generation, (i.e. PV, wind, and propane hybrids) and passive and active solar thermal commercial systems on Native American lands and buffer zones as well as on other rural lands not supplied by a utility grid.

  • To demonstrate how renewable energy power systems can be used to eliminate the environmental impact of electric grid power lines on Indian lands, National Forests, National Parks, other protected areas, and the general rural environment.

  • To build a renewable energy powered ecotourism infrastructure as part of a modern Native American village that will be used for a tourism business and as a Native American "hands-on" training center (business).

  • To provide employment for the Ramona Tribe and a "green" electrification model to generate employment for other tribes using a variety of renewable energy power systems.

  • To develop a Native American renewable energy power system procurement specifications, procurement process training manual and materials which the Ramona Tribal trainers will use to sell on-site training services to HUD, IHS (Indian Health Services), and other tribes.

  • To monitor power system technical performance and sociological/cultural impacts over a three (3) year period using tribal members and a Native American company ("TERO") to collect data and operate and maintain equipment with on-site training and back-up by DTI staff.

Ecotourism, tied with a renewable energy system, will continue to protect the tribal culture and preserve the natural habitat. With renewable energy, the tribe should be able to create a successful ecotourism enterprise that will generate revenues in a manner consistent with tribal goals to preserve and protect natural resources. The serene surroundings will allow people to get away from the hectic pace of their everyday lives. Visitors would be able to unwind and fill their days with relaxation, quiet, hiking, and enjoying the environment. Due to the remote rural location of reservation lands coupled with tribal development policies, the tribe can offer a visit free from overcrowding, which will ensure that the ambiance is not destroyed and the habitat is not disturbed. The Ramona Band is eager to share their rich history and cultural and natural resources with others that wish to learn some of the ways of Native Americans.

Because the ecotourism facility site is located at the intersection of several earthquake faults, the Band's current plans call for the tribal and tourist housing to be flexible and able to withstand severe shaking.

The economic benefits to the Tribe accrue primarily from the ecotourism business operation revenues, secondarily from the training business revenues, and thirdly from long term energy cost savings and reliability of power for the reservation.

The overall project involves not only the ecotourism facility but also newly constructed housing for tribal members moving to the Reservation. A Housing and Urban Development grant covers the basic construction and the renewable power systems for the housing, while the DOE award will pay for the additional resource assessment and energy systems design for the ecotourism facility and for system monitoring.

To date the project has accomplished the following tasks in support of the project:

  • Reservation site meetings have been held
  • Wind resource assessments have been completed
  • Load profiles for the reservation are complete
  • Renewable energy hybrid system designs are ready
  • A Environmental Analysis shows minimal impact from the project
  • While only partially completed, the "Training and Tribal Capacity Building" tasks were successful
  • The Operation and Management Plan was outlined
  • An Economic Analysis shows very good promise for the project

Project Status

The project is complete. For additional details see Ramona Final Report (MS Word 436 KB). For current project status or additional information, contact one of the project contacts.

(Note: The period of performance for the Cooperative Agreement between DOE and DTI in support of the Tribe was originally scheduled from September 30, 1999 to September 30, 2003 to allow for performance evaluation of the housing complex renewable energy hybrid system, which was to be installed during this period. However, it wasn't until the third project year (2002) that the Tribe had received all the funding (grants) necessary to purchase the hybrid energy systems (and construct the ecotourism buildings) and consequently it was not possible to conduct system performance evaluation (Task Two) under this agreement. Subsequently, the agreement was closed out one year earlier than planned. Performance evaluation of all energy systems will now be conducted under a DOE Cooperative Agreement award made to the Tribe in September 2002.

Project Contact

Malcolm Lillywhite
Domestic Technologies, Inc.
PO Box 44
29025A Upper Bear Creek Rd.
Evergreen, CO 80439
Telephone: (303) 674-7700
Fax: (303) 674-7772