Chumash Solar Projects
Tribal Government Solar Project
Next time you are out in front of the Tribal Hall or Health Clinic look up and you will get a glimpse of the 56kW solar PV system.
In July 2010 the Tribe installed 192 SunPower™ panels (56 kilowatts) on the Tribal Hall and Health Clinic. The installation is expected to produce 91,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year!
Overall, the two systems will provide 42% of the electricity usage of both buildings and is estimated to offset 1,597 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from power plants (equivalent to 100 SUVs traveling 20,000 miles each).
Going solar also makes economic sense. The two systems, which cost $165,122 after grants and rebates, will reduce the Tribal Hall and Health Clinic’s electricity bill by at least 44% and is projected to pay for itself within 10 years. Solar panels are under warranty for 25 years but can last much longer. Therefore, once the Tribe’s investment is recovered these systems have the potential to provide decades of free electricity.
You don’t have to stand in the Tribal Hall and Health Clinic parking lot to see the panels doing their job. You can learn almost everything you will ever want to know about the systems by interacting with a 25 inch LCD touch screen hanging in the lobby of the health clinic. You can also continuously track the system’s solar energy production, each building’s energy use, and weather conditions using the online dashboard.
Solar Installation Training
The solar installation was performed by California Solar Electric (CSE), a local contractor based out of Ojai. In addition to designing and installing the system, CSE collaborated with the Chumash Environmental Office to provide free training for a number of Tribal community members. One tribal descendant, Jimmy Johnson, attended the solar basics and safety classroom session on the first Monday of the installation and then returned every day that week for hands-on training. CSE was so impressed by his commitment and work ethic that they hired him for the remainder of the installation and plan on employing him for future jobs. The Environmental Office is developing more extensive renewable energy and energy efficiency training opportunities that we plan to offer Tribal community members in the near future.
Residential Solar Projects
Several tribal residents also recognize the value of solar and have invested in their own systems. In October of 2009 two Tribal members installed solar on the roofs of their homes. One 12.0 kW system is offsetting 100% of home electricity use, while a 5.8 kW system is covering the majority of the other home’s energy consumption. According to David Colgate, their solar panels are producing more electricity than originally projected. In March 2010 another Tribal member installed 5.4 and 4.6 kW systems on two residences on his property, with an estimated payback periods of fiveyears. The following month another Tribal member installed a massive 12.2 kW PV system next to the solar heating panels for her pool. This system is expected to offset almost all of her electricity costs and save her $10,400 in the first year.
Interested in installing solar on your own home? The Environmental Office assisted these Tribal community members with their installations, and we can help you determine whether solar is right for you as well. Visit our Residential Services page to learn more about our energy efficiency and renewable energy support services.