The Delaware Nation, a federally-recognized tribe of about 1,400 people in Anadarko, Okla., will install solar panel roofs on two tribal government buildings as part of a larger effort to become more sustainable and bring new jobs to an area struggling with high unemployment.
“It’s the start of a green initiative,” says Theda McPheron-Keel, president of Wind Hollow Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping American Indians improve their lives. “It provides economic development, education, and preserves the culture. It all fits together.”
The new fully functioning roof and solar energy production plant will reduce consumption by 90,000 kilowatt hours annually and save the tribe about $20,000 a year. Installation is set to begin in August
McPheron-Keel, an enrolled member of the Southeastern Cherokee tribe, acted on behalf of the tribe to write the grant as part of their Going Green Initiative. “The Delaware Nation was interested in doing something in maintaining their heritage and preserving Mother Earth,” Theda says. “They decided they needed to lead the area in getting green.”
An Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant worth $250,000 from the Department of Energy will fund the project.
Theda wants the building’s latest addition to be an educational tool for American Indians and others in the rural community. “We want people to watch it, visit it, and learn about it,” she says. Theda and Delaware Nation president Kerry Holton hope the addition will be the first of many projects that create green jobs for the people in Anadarko.
Together, they are trying to develop a technology park to bring businesses that focus on energy efficiency and conservation to the area. More solar installations, as well as wind and biomass projects, are also being talked about.
“We want to revitalize the town, tribes and the south western part of Oklahoma,” Theda says.
Editor's note: This story was updated on July 13, 2010 to reflect changes in the project's estimated energy savings and installation date.