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Wisconsin tribes get $2.6 million in federal grants for energy independence projects

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The federal government has awarded two Wisconsin tribes more than $2.6 million in grants to help develop local energy resources.

The Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians and the Forest County Potawatomi Community are among 12 tribal governments that will share more than $16 million in energy security and resilience grants from the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy.

The goal of the grants is to “provide autonomous operation for increased community resilience,” according to the Energy Department. Altogether, the projects will affect more than 900 buildings and are expected to generate about $7.5 million a year in energy savings.

“The selected projects are consistent with the principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination, with a fuel- and technology-neutral energy strategy that recognizes the breadth of energy resources on tribal lands, and each tribe’s right to use them as they see fit,” Office of Indian Energy Director Kevin R. Frost said in a statement.

With matching funds from the tribes, the grants are expected to support more than $5 million worth of projects in Wisconsin and $39 million nationwide.

According to the Energy Department, the Bad River Band will receive almost $1 million to install a solar-powered “microgrid” system to power three buildings. The system, which will include batteries and computerized controls, will be able to operate independent of the electrical grid and is expected to offset the electrical demands of two of the buildings.

The $2 million project is expected to save the tribe about $841,000 over 25 years.

The Forrest County Potawatomi will receive more than $1.6 million for two projects, including more than 1 megawatt of solar panels to be installed on tribal buildings in Milwaukee and reservation lands. The solar installations — ranging from 8 to 280 kilowatts — are expected to generate more than $100,000 a year in savings for the tribe.

A second grant will fund solar panels and energy efficiency measures at a new $60 million community center in Crandon, expected to save another $111,000 a year.


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