Seneca Nation Completes 1.9MW Solar Array Project $3.4 million project continues Nation’s renewable energy efforts 11/15/2017

October 26, 2017
Phil Pantano
Pantano & Associates, L.L.C.

Seneca Nation Completes 1.9MW Solar Array Project
$3.4 million project continues Nation’s renewable energy efforts

ALLEGANY TERRITORY, STEAMBURG, N.Y. – Less than six months after ground was broken, the Seneca Nation celebrated its latest step toward energy independence this morning.

Nation leaders and officials gathered on the Allegany Territory to mark the official completion of a 1.9 megawatt solar array. The $3.4 million project has the capacity to generate up to 2.2 million kilowatt hours (2.2MM/kWh) annually. That is enough electricity to power approximately 230 homes. The project will be net metered through National Grid (NGRID) and help power Seneca Nation facilities on the Allegany Territory, as well as reduce monthly electrical costs for residents of the Allegany Territory who are supplied by NGRID.

In addition to the financial benefits, the solar array will provide significant environmental benefits as well. The emissions reductions realized through the array are the equivalent of approximately 60 vehicles taken off the road each year.

“We believe that investing in renewable energy is an investment in the overall health of the Seneca people,” said Seneca Nation President Todd Gates. “Through these important initiatives we are able to provide our residents clean, affordable energy, while also moving the Nation away from environmentally harmful fossil fuels, and closer to our vision for self-reliance and energy independence.”

Built on 7.5 acres of Nation land, the array consists of 5,746 solar panels distributed into 19 rows. All of the electric assemblies are wired together using approximately 235,000 feet of wire, equaling 44.5 miles.
Construction began on May 8, and was completed ahead of schedule on August 22. Over the last several weeks, crews from National Grid finalized the interconnection for the array, allowing the Seneca Nation to begin producing power on October 13th, approximately six months earlier than originally expected. The early completion of the project will translate into approximately $100,000 of additional revenue for the Seneca Nation from the solar array.

“Seneca Energy is working to ensure the security, prosperity and independence of the Seneca Nation by building a sustainable energy platform and lowering energy costs for the Nation and its residents. One of the ways we’re accomplishing this is by installing distributed generation assets such as the wind turbine and solar array. These projects are harnessing the Nation’s abundant natural resources and offsetting high energy costs while benefiting the environment by providing significant emissions reduction.” said Anthony Giacobbe, director, Seneca Energy, the Seneca Nation’s wholly-owned energy company responsible for all energy investment and development initiatives.

In addition to Seneca Energy, companies involved in the planning, development and construction of the solar array project include Seneca Construction Management Corporation, Suncommon, Baker Tilly, Schuler-Haas Electric, RBI Solar, and ERW Structural Construction.

The project continues the Seneca Nation’s concerted efforts to harness the capabilities of renewable energy and drive for energy independence. Earlier this year, the Nation completed a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine on the Cattaraugus Territory in Irving. The $6 million wind turbine project helps power Seneca Nation facilities and provides residents on the Cattaraugus Territory cost savings on their electric bills, while also reducing the Nation’s carbon footprint. Both the wind turbine and the solar array projects are cornerstones of the Nation’s Strategic Energy Plan.

Together, the Nation views the projects as the first steps in creating a tribal-owned utility, an effort which the Nation hopes can be replicated across other Native American communities in the United States. A recent analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that there was only 125 megawatts of renewable energy currently installed on Indian lands across the country, despite potential installed capacity of more than 9 million megawatts.

“Through this solar project and our Cattaraugus wind turbine, we have established the foundation for a robust energy platform by which we can both protect Mother Earth and harness the capabilities of our abundant natural resources,” President Gates said. “We hope that we are setting a path for the Seneca people, for our entire community, and for our brothers and sisters in Indian Country to follow.”