Click on the photo above to view a full-screen slideshow. Photos courtesy of the Bear River Band.

This wind+solar+storage system is the first renewable hybrid microgrid installed by a California tribe.   

Tish Non Community Center

Loleta, California

The Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria is a federally recognized Native American tribe headquartered in Humboldt County, California just south of Eureka. The Bear River Band’s Tish Non Community Center is a two-story, 31,000 square-foot building, that serves as a vital community hub, hosting activities for elders and youth, educational programs, daycare, parenting classes, family activities, community meetings, and serves as the main administration building for the tribal government. The center, built in 2010-2011, was designed with day lighting, natural ventilation, and hydronic floor heating.

In 2015, the Tribe partnered with JLM Energy to install a hybrid renewable energy microgrid to support the Tish Non Community Center. The project includes a two-row 100-kilowatt solar system, 20 wind micro-turbines, and a 30-kilowatt / 60-kilowatt-hour battery storage system. This hybrid system will support the community center’s operations during a power outage, reduce 40% of the building’s annual grid energy usage, and cut energy expenses by shaving peak demand charges. The Tribe expects a 10-year payback period for the $400,000 microgrid.  A 10-year return on investment (ROI) for a customer that has no tax appetite is excellent when considering the project could produce savings for the next 20 years.

In addition to the resiliency, climate, and financial benefits, this renewable energy microgrid is important to the Bear River Band for cultural reasons. “Anything that makes us more independent strengthens our sovereignty and bring us closer to our traditional values,” says Tribal Council Member Barry Brenard. Development of the microgrid also provided training and job opportunities for the tribe’s residents.

“The principle of tribal sovereignty is really encapsulated in self-sufficiency to the extent that the tribe is really able to take care of itself,” says Matthew Mattson, the Bear River Band’s former executive director of tribal operations. “The microgrid, in addition to providing that element of self-sufficiency that’s so important to sovereignty, also pencils out in the long run: Simply saving on power bills over time will save the tribe money and means that there are more dollars available for services for tribal members.”

Through their experience with this project, the Bear River Band has developed a Master Plan and Guide for Tribal Renewable Energy Sovereignty as a resource for other tribes. Watch a video on Bear River’s continued energy sovereignty efforts here, and read more about their current work with the DOE Office of Indian Energy here.

Installation Details

Year Commissioned: 2015

Services Provided: Renewables Integration, Demand Management, Backup Power

Supported Infrastructure: Community center

Solar: 100 kW ground-mount PV

Wind: 20 micro-turbines (JLM’s Zefr turbines)

Storage: 30 kW / 60 kWh battery (JLM’s Gridz system)

Project Partners: Bear River Band, JLM Energy

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