Solar Incentives Pay Off for Washoe Tribe

Sierra Pacific Power and the Washoe Indian Tribe of Nevada and California have started the utility’s SolarGenerations program off with a solar flare. The Washoe Tribe hired Alternative Energy Solutions of Reno to install a 7.5 kW photovoltaic (PV) array on the roof of the their Environmental Department building in Gardnerville, and received a $33,185 rebate for their investment.

Energy produced by the array provides electricity to power the office’s lights, computers, copiers and fax machine, according to Jimmy Levi, who is the environmental program coordinator for the tribe. Levi said the tribe installed the array because of the tribal members’ environmental commitment. Any excess power produced by the PV panels will flow into Sierra Pacific’s electric distribution system, essentially running the meter backward to reduce the tribe’s monthly electric bill. “Renewable resources are a vital component of Nevada’s energy portfolio and will aid in our battle against the volatile energy markets,” said Don Soderberg, who is the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada. “I appreciate the Tribe’s commitment to sustainable resources and advancing the use of renewable energy in Nevada.” Another 55 similar small commercial and residential solar projects, which are capable of producing nearly 200 kW of electricity, are under construction in the state. These projects are eligible for a combined total of $1 million in rebates. SolarGenerations was created by Assembly Bill 431, the Solar Energy Systems Demonstration Program, and passed by the 2003 session of the Nevada State Legislature. The legislation was implemented by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, which authorizes rebates for Nevadans who install PV systems. Customers who install PV panels are eligible for a rebate of $5 per watt of electricity produced during the first year of the program. Two weeks after the SolarGenerations program was announced, Sierra Pacific and Nevada Power received enough applications to commit all residential and small business funding for the first year. Among the organizations supporting the legislation that created SolarGenerations was the Nevada State AFL-CIO, which has worked with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to develop a training program and training site for the workers who will install PV systems. “This effort is a fine example of government, workers, consumers and companies joining forces to generate the kind of economic development that builds our communities, protects our environment and supports our families,” said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.
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