The 3,000 members of the Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico are looking to build the first utility-scale solar power plant on tribal land. They are also looking to make some money on it.
It is no secret that Native American tribes are more likely to be poverty-stricken and they generally have more than twice the unemployment rate of the United States. Former Jemez Pueblo governor James Roger Magdalena says, “We don’t have any revenue coming in except for a little convenience store.”
It is estimated this solar power plant could generate $25 million over the next quarter century and help create a sustainable revenue for his tribe.
Mr. Magdalena sees the environmental changes
that need to occur around the world and sees the economic potential in these changes as well. For his community, he says, “It’s very critical that we become innovative, creative, that we come up with something that will last generations without having a devastating impact on the environment.”They are doing something about climate change:
This project is supposed to include 14,850 solar panels on 30 acres. The cost of the project is estimated at $22 million and will be financed through various government loans, grants and tax credits.
They take the long view of sustainability:James Roger Madalena, a former tribal governor, was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor (2010): “It’s very critical that we become innovative, creative, that we come up with something that will last generations without having a devastating impact on the environment.”And here’s something other communities could use as a model:In planning for the long-term capacity of its tribal renewable energy workforce, the Pueblo is integrating renewable energy into the school curriculum:I don’t know that anybody speaks for “the indigenous”, but this particular tribe of native Americans thinks solar is good for energy, jobs, income, and education, all for the long run.
- Elementary students are learning about robotics and solar-powered cars through a partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory.
- Students learn about design models of solar-powered homes.
- Staff from the Pueblo’s Department of Resource Protection teach high-school students about the geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass energy potential of the region through lectures and field trips.
- Kevin Shendo, the Pueblo’s education director, uses the tribe’s renewable energy resources to teach math, science and technology in experiential learning activities to better prepare students for jobs in a local green economy.