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Wind, Sun Power to Help Rural Towns

Rural communities in Alaska, Arizona and New Mexico will receive government grants to fund environmentally friendly energy projects and upgrade their electricity utilities. The Rural Utility Service, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, awarded US $11.3 million in grants to six applicants for the High Energy Cost Grant Program, which was established in 1936 to assist energy facilities serving rural communities with high-energy costs.

Washington, D.C. – July 12, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Only three of the six applicants chosen for this round of funding proposed to establish new utility programs using renewable energy sources. Hooper Bay in Alaska is using diesel fuel to generate electricity for its 1,014 residents. But a grant of US $1.1 million to the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) will be used to build a wind turbine to help reduce the fuel use in the village. AVEC serves at least 50 remote villages in the state, and Hooper Bay is in a high wind area. The average cost of providing electricity for residential customers in Hooper Bay currently exceeds $0.45 per kWh. The Hualapai Nation in Peach Springs, Arizona, will use $2 million in grant funds and tribal contributions to construct a hybrid solar photovoltaic (PV) electric system to serve the Grand Canyon West community on the Hualapai Reservation. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will also contribute funds for the system because it will provide some power to the FAA Grand Canyon West Airport facility. Electricity for small commercial facilities, worker housing, a water system plant, and approximately 50 homes in the area are only the first part of the tribe’s plan for ecologically sensitive development in this area. Sacred Power Corporation of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in cooperation with the Ojo Encino and Torreon/Star Lake Chapter Houses of the Navajo Nation, will use $825,108 in grant funds to provide distributed solar PV and wind hybrid power stations and energy efficiency upgrades for remote homes on tribal lands. As a result of this grant at least 50 remote homes will have reliable electric service for the first time. The high costs of connecting these scattered residences have made on-grid electric service prohibitively expensive. Running a small generator for household needs averages about $0.75 per kWh. Use of the hybrid units should reduce the costs by at least one third. Sacred Power, a Native American-owned small business, will manufacture the hybrid, which will also be maintained and serviced using local labor.