The Ipai Solar team continues to move forward with its community solar project as a part of the US Department of Energy “Solar in Your Community Challenge.” The team has reached some important milestones in 2017 and hopes to begin construction during the summer of 2018. This year, the Ipai Solar team has completed the engineering design and conducted extensive community outreach. The next step is to apply for interconnection.
One of the team’s primary goals was to select a site physical site for the solar farm and complete the engineering design. As discussed in the Blog Post “First Quarter Goals: Site Selection” the team was originally deciding between three potential sites on the San Pasqual Reservation. As late as October 2017, the team had planned to build the solar farm as a part of a shade structure over one of the parking lots near the administrative building. However, the team found that the additional costs associated with the parking structure would likely outweigh the financial savings generated by the solar system. Therefore, the team reevaluated the three potential sites. The Ipai Solar team now plans to construct the solar farm on the “Red Lot”—a nearby parking lot on tribal trust land. GRID Alternatives led the engineering process and designed a solar system that would consist of 532 solar modules and produce 274.4 megawatt hours per year.
As GRID Alternatives worked on the design, the San Pasqual Environmental Department led consistent community engagement initiatives both on and off the Reservation. On the Res, the Department held a community solar night and also gave a presentation at an elders Luncheon. Given that this will be the first community solar installation for the tribe, the Ipai Solar team must carefully explain the concept of community solar to potential customers. The Ipai Solar team now has a running list with more than 25 tribal residents interested in participating in the community solar project.
Team members have taken advantage of multiple opportunities off the Reservation to share lessons-learned as well. This year, the San Pasqual Environmental Department hosted the Tribal EPA Section 9 Conference and was able to speak with leaders from other tribes about the Ipai Solar Project. A member of the Ipai team also gave a poster presentation at Duke University as a part of the University’s Energy Conference this November. The team continues to share its learnings from this project with communities across the country.
With the completed design and a running list of prospective customers, the team is now ready to apply for interconnection from the local utility. The team plans to organize a meeting with the local utility in early 2018 to discuss the project and prepare the interconnection application. After the interconnection process is complete, the team will be well-positioned to begin construction next summer.