The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is another step closer to becoming energy independent with renewable energy thanks to help from the federal government.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Community Development Corporation received $94,000 this week as a follow up grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Division of Energy and Mineral Development to further develop what they are calling the Tribal Utility Corporation as well as a pioneering micro-grid eco-village.
The utility corporation is similar to the Cape Light Compact. As a sovereign nation, the tribe would be able to buy energy directly from the grid and then provide energy at a much cheaper rate to tribal members, said Mark D. Harding, president of the tribe’s Community Development Corporation.
In addition, the grant will help the tribe move forward with seeking different renewable energy projects. Mr. Harding said that would likely result in solar panels on government buildings, as well as on homes, canopies and carports.
Part of the plan aims to create an “eco-village” that will allow the corporation to provide energy to the Tribe’s new affordable housing development on Meeting House Road in Mashpee. The Meeting House Road project, which recently received about $12 million in funding, includes possible construction of 42 rental units, including 13 units reserved for low-income members of the tribe.
Mr. Harding sees the energy corporation as a natural venture for the Tribe.
“At the heart of this development is the desire to close the loop with respect to natural resource production and use,” said Mr. Harding. “For centuries our people have understood the need to live and walk in harmony with the natural world. With this most recent grant, we’re now closer to incorporating those traditional ways into a modern business model.”
The Tribe’s Community Development Corporation has contracted with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP to assist with the project and will continue to do so with the latest grant. Baker Tilly is a national advisory firm.
The Community Development Corporation originally received a $310,000 grant from the same federal program in 2016, and Baker Tilly since has been working with the corporation.
From 2016 to 2017, Baker Tilly and the corporation performed a preliminary feasibility study of the development of a Tribal Utility Authority, as well as the assessment of wind and solar resources on tribal lands. These studies found that deployment of solar energy generation was a viable path to offset energy costs, generate revenue, and reduce the tribe’s carbon footprint.
The tribe’s Community Development Corporation was organized in 2016 to promote economic security and community development of the tribe. It aims to help the tribe gain economic independence.
Mr. Harding said that the group has other projects on the horizon aside from the energy project that would assist with its goals.