Blackfeet Nation develops solar project benefiting low-income tribal residents

Blackfeet Nation, BEF, and GRID Alternatives partner to install 213 kW of solar on the reservation

BEF partnered with the Blackfeet Community College (BCC), Heart Butte School, GRID Alternatives, and Glacier Electric Cooperative to secure Department of Energy (DOE) funding to install 53 kW of rooftop solar on the BCC buildings and 160 kW of ground-mounted solar at the Heart Butte K-12 school, both located on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana. GRID Alternatives led both installations in June of 2021 and provided hands-on job skills training for Blackfeet high school and college students. BEF’s CE Program selected Shelby Jones, a science teacher at Heart Butte School, as a Clean Energy Fellow this year and supported her work developing renewable energy engineering challenges and curricula for Blackfeet students. She was able to use the installation as a hands-on learning opportunity, and her summer students created a podcast about the solar project. 

Project Benefits

The two systems will offset an estimated 223,530 kWh/year, resulting in a 34%  reduction in electricity use and an estimated $794,158 in lifetime electricity bill savings. The 160 kW system on Heart Butte School will be a virtually net metered community solar system, and Glacier Electric Cooperative will be managing subscriptions to this system, generating electricity bill savings for individual Blackfeet community members who subscribe. These savings are particularly impactful as almost 40% of all residents on the Blackfeet Nation live in poverty, which is twice the statewide average.

What’s next for the Blackfeet

This project will be a long-term asset and will generate meaningful economic savings for Blackfeet community members. BEF will continue to partner with the tribe on future projects to continue working to achieve their energy goals.