WINNEBAGO, Neb. — An indigenous tribe plans to install 1,000 solar panels at a reservation in northeast Nebraska.

The Winnebago Tribe will install panels across more than a dozen sites, generating more than 300 kilowatts of solar power. The installations are projected to reduce energy bills by about $40,000 a year, the Sioux City Journal reported .

The project came after the tribe’s economic development arm, Ho-Chunk Inc., received two grants in June through the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. The grants totaled $394,500 and Ho-Chunk matched funds to increase it to $789,000.

“Winnebago is going solar,” said Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk. “These grants are really a big deal for the whole community. Ho-Chunk Inc. has always been committed to finding ways to be less dependent on traditional electric and gas energy for our operations. … These new grants will allow us to make a greater impact with energy savings across the reservation.”

Morgan said the Winnebago Reservation will be one of the largest renewable infrastructures in Nebraska after the project’s completion.

Ho-Chunk is also working with Nebraska Renewable Energy Systems to bring more green projects to the Winnebago Reservation, including replacing a wind turbine at Little Priest Tribal College and installing a solar panel farm near the Pony Express convenience stores.

Morgan cited clean energy and self-reliance as reasons for the move to solar.

“As Native Americans, we feel it is the right thing to do for our environment,” he said. “Historically, we lived in harmony with our land, and want to do so again. As with our mission to be economically self-sufficient, we want to be energy self-sufficient as well and look at all the opportunities to make that happen. We don’t want to be reliant on anyone else but ourselves for our long-term needs.”


Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com