- One American Indian tribe from Nebraska has taken the lead when it comes to solar energy.
- The Winnebago tribe is now capable of producing 400 kilowatts of solar power.
- They are also planning to add more this Summer.
- Meanwhile, the rest of Nebraska still relies on traditional expensive electricity.
- The Winnebago tribe has set an example and inspired Nebraskans to follow suit.
North American Indians are some of the best examples of people coexisting with nature as a part of its circle. Their religion revolves around the spirituality of nature, and as such, they treat nature as an entity to be respected along with its animals, land, waters, and plants. Oftentimes, they even treated other parts of the ecosystem as their equals, a concept which a lot of other human beings need to take from.
So perhaps it may not be surprising that one American Indian tribe from Nebraska has made the switch to solar energy. After all, it would only make sense for them to channel their love for nature and the environment once again, despite all the modern influences positive or otherwise.
Solar power leader of the plains
The American Indian tribe in question is the Winnebago tribe and they currently hold the record of the biggest solar power producer in the U.S. compared to any other Midwestern Indian tribe in the country. These guys led quite a good example of how it means to protect the environment you live in, one solar panel at a time.
At the moment, their solar power capacity is at 400 kilowatts or installed solar panels and counting. They certainly do not plan to end it there and believe that there is a lot more room for improvement. Hence why they requested a federal grant to pay half the cost of an additional 300 kilowatts.
The Winnebago tribe expects such a grant to be accepted or rejected by the Federal government this Summer. If approved, though, they will become one of the leaders of solar power production among American Indian tribes in the whole U.S. enjoying at least 700 kilowatts of renewable energy.
This amount is quite impressive for their community which has a population of only 850 people. Their tribal leaders do admit that the solar power push which began a decade ago was good for them and other communities. Not only does it protect the environment but also cuts the cost of electricity from utility providers.
A decade of progress
Efforts of the Winnebago tribe to incorporate solar energy in their community began as far back as 2008. The tribe had this idea and started small with initially a 25-kilowatt setup. Over the years, it just kept growing and the Winnebago tribe just kept adding increments to their solar power capacity. So their impressive 400-kilowatt setup certainly did not happen overnight and took a lot of years of buildup and support from the members of the community.
The Winnebago tribe did admit that the most progress they had was done in the past two years thanks to the rapidly increasing participation of the community members. Perhaps the rapid decrease in solar power investment also had something to do with this fast progress from the Winnebago tribe, since at the moment, solar panels are at their most affordable and might even be more so in the future.
Of course, the Winnebago tribe also has the government to thank. Since the U.S. Department of Energy began awarding competitive grants to tribes back in 2002, the Winnebago tribe has received as much as $425,000 for their renewable energy project. As stated above, they expect to receive more funding for their solar panels this Summer.
Right now, the largest beneficiary of this grant program from the Department of Energy in the Midwest has been the Forest County Potawatomi in Wisconsin. The Potawatomi tribe has been able to install 1.61 megawatts of solar generation because of the grants.
Big savings for the tribes
As expected, the Winnebago tribe has saved a lot of money ever since they started using solar panels. An estimate of $47,000 annual savings on electricity is currently being enjoyed by the tribe, perhaps more when they increase their capacity this year. The Winnebago tribe has certainly set a good example for the state of Nebraska.
Surprisingly, the in all of Nebraska, the densest concentration of solar panels is in the Winnebago community. It is because the state of Nebraska is still torn regarding the benefits of solar powers, that this is the case. Unfortunately for other citizens of Nebraska, the utilities and the lawmakers have been slow to adapt to the changes in the solar industry and are not quite convinced to utilize the prospect.
There are also other factors why solar panel setups in Nebraska are rare, and that is due to a lot of the residents in the state not owning their homes. Some of them live in apartments owned by the tribes or the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is why utility companies in Nebraska should take the initiative of providing solar panel generated electricity.
Still, the Winnebago tribe serves as a bright example for other tribes and communities in Nebraska. They have actually gained much support and praise from other residents in Nebraska, with people often wanting to do what they are doing with their solar energy. The tribe is no stranger to visitors because of their more affordable electricity and is attracting admiration from the other tribes.
It is only a matter of time before the rest of Nebraska tries to follow the good example set by the Winnebago tribe.