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Solar-Plus-Storage and Microgrid Projects for High Load Facilities are Great Candidates for the Loan Programs Office Tribal Energy Finance Program

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Loan Programs Office (LPO) recently announced its first conditional commitment under the Tribal Energy Financing Program (TEFP) for a loan guarantee of up to $72.8 million for the development of a solar-plus-long-duration energy storage microgrid on the Tribal lands of the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians near Alpine, California. The Viejas Microgrid project will provide the Viejas Band with reliable utility-scale renewable energy generation and storage infrastructure through the installation of a 15 MW photovoltaic solar generation system and a 38 MWh battery long-duration energy storage system. The project developer, Indian Energy, is a 100% Native American owned energy development firm. The borrower, IE VEM Managing Member LLC, is a Tribal energy development organization (TEDO) owned by Indian Energy.

Power generated by microgrids can be used to help operate various high-load centers—including gaming, hospitality, and retail facilities—which use a lot of electricity. By generating and storing electricity nearer to where it is being used, microgrids can make high-load centers more resilient because they are not solely dependent on the electric grid. Facilities with high loads are great candidates for the TEFP, as low-cost debt financing can help Tribes reduce the cost of decarbonization and achieve Tribal energy sovereignty.

EXPLORE USE CASES

LPO can support a broad range of projects and activities for the development of energy resources, products, and services that utilize commercial technology (innovative technology is permitted but not required). For Tribes interested in pursuing solar-plus-storage and/or microgrid projects, LPO sees five primary use cases:

1. Promoting Tribal energy sovereignty through clean energy generation: The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to promoting and supporting Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. This initiative honors the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities by creating clear pathways to affordable clean energy deployment.

2. Balancing High Energy Demands with Clean Solutions: These projects can meet the high energy demands of facilities on Tribal lands, including resorts, gaming facilities, schools (such as Tribal Colleges and Universities), and hospitals. These buildings require consistent, reliable energy resources.

3. Creating Resiliency: Microgrids can enhance the resilience of a Tribe or Tribal community’s ability to withstand a power outage. Furthermore, a facility (such as a hotel) on Tribal land with solar-plus-storage could serve as a resilience center, as high-load facilities are often easily identifiable by the nearby community.

4. Yielding Cost Savings: A transition to renewable energy can create cost savings, allowing resources to be redirected toward other Tribal investments. A solar-plus-storage microgrid can provide a lower cost of energy over the lifetime of the project. The primary costs for microgrids tend to be upfront. With a loan, these costs can be financed and paid back over time.

5. Implementing Proven Technology: Unlike many other LPO programs, the TEFP does not have an innovation requirement. Utilizing proven technologies creates a more streamlined process and reduces project risk.

LEVERAGE TEFP FINANCING

To encourage the development of more projects like the Viejas Microgrid, LPO has created a specialized outreach initiative for Tribes to leverage TEFP financing for solar-plus-storage and microgrid projects. LPO has decades of technical, financial, and legal experience in financing solar and storage projects. In light of President Biden’s Executive Order on reducing barriers for Tribes to accessing federal programs, LPO is excited to bring this expertise to Tribes looking to decarbonize their high-load facilities.

SUBMIT A PRE-APPLICATION CONSULTATION REQUEST

If solar-plus-storage and/or microgrid projects sound like a good fit, we invite you to submit a pre-application consultation request below.

You should submit a pre-application consultation request if you are:

• A federally recognized Tribe or a developer working with a federally recognized Tribe or a Tribal Energy Development Corporation (as defined by the solicitation).

• In the process of, or are seriously considering, installing solar-plus-storage and/or a microgrid.

• Have a high-load facility or other large Tribally owned enterprise (e.g., school, hospital, or hotel).

• Want to learn more about LPO’s loans, loan guarantees, and additional financing programs to support your solar-plus-storage or microgrid project.

In your pre-application consultation request, you may include summary information regarding your proposed project as well as appropriate contact information. This could include any existing project overviews, completed technical studies, or financial assessments. There is no need to create anything new at this stage. We recommend sharing any pre-existing project information that could help inform a conversation on project eligibility, scope, and status. A few examples include:

• Description of project eligibility under the requirements of the TEFP

• Type of enterprise (e.g., hospital, gaming, or hotel) and location

• Type of project (e.g., solar, solar-plus-storage, and/or microgrid)

• General description of project, such as size of solar project (e.g., less than 5 MW, 5–10 MW, or 10–20+ MW), storage type (e.g., lithium-ion) and duration (e.g., less than 1–2 hours, 2–4 hours, or over 5 hours)

• Estimated range of total project costs (e.g., $20–50 million, $50–100 million, $100–200 million, or over $200 million)

• Current stage of project and any progress to date (e.g., if you have engaged with any Federal agency or State-level collaborators and/or the Bureau of Indian Affairs hired a developer, or have started or received necessary permits)

Submission of information is purely voluntary and is not necessary for consideration of a loan or loan guarantee by LPO. Any information shared will be used by LPO’s Outreach and Business Development (OBD) team to prepare for its first conversation with you.

If all of the above don’t apply to you, please email the OBD team at TELGP@hq.doe.gov or call 202-586-1262 for information on how LPO can support other Tribal energy projects.

Ready to learn more?

The following resources will help you better understand TEFP financing, LPO’s application process, and more:

• Top 10 Questions All Applicants Should Ask Before Applying to LPO Department of Energy

• Tribal Energy Financing Program Frequently Asked Questions

• Tribal Energy Financing Program Solicitation (describes applicant eligibility criteria and types of eligible projects, such as solar, storage, and microgrid projects)

• The Power of Native Energy (LPO presentation deck)

 

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