ANADARKO — An Anadarko-based American Indian tribe unveiled a solar energy project on Wednesday that tribal officials said would save it thousands of dollars and could lead to new jobs coming to southwestern Oklahoma.
The construction of the 37.5-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Delaware Nation's complex north of Anadarko will supply 30 percent of the complex's electricity, tribal President Kerry Holton said. The solar array should be finished by next month and a sign already hangs outside the headquarters building that reads “These buildings are powered by the sun.”
To pay for the project, the Delaware Nation received a $250,000 federal grant from stimulus funds and Holton said the tribe matched that amount. He said the tribe will recoup its costs within five to eight years.
The tribe also has started manufacturing LED lights at a plant in Anadarko and could branch out into assembling modules for solar arrays in the near future, Holton said.
“Green technology is the wave of the future and it certainly fits in with our culture,” Holton said.
Kylah McNabb, a renewable energy specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, worked with the Delaware Nation on obtaining the grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. McNabb said it's thought to be the first major solar energy project started by a state-based tribe.
“This project truly has the potential to set an example for Oklahoma, to set an example for the other tribes about what can be done when you take a focus on green initiatives and really put your mind to it. This is a technology that works,” she said.
Holton became the president of the 1,500-member tribe — which has its roots in the mid-Atlantic Delaware River lands — in 2006. In 2008, the tribe began working on an economic development plan, from which sprang an initiative focusing on renewable energy. The tribe hoped to use the focus on renewable energy to generate jobs in Anadarko, a city that bills itself as “Indian City USA.”