The tribe's solar array
Photo credit: Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe in southwestern Colorado depends heavily on sales of oil and natural gas. But now, it’s investing in solar energy, too.

Lindsay Box is the spokesperson for the Tribal Council. She says the motivation to pursue solar came when Southern Ute leaders learned about a grant opportunity from the Department of Energy.

Box: “This was something new, and we figured, if we have good sunlight majority of the year in Colorado, then why not try this opportunity? We had a tract of land that we were able to use that was close to the tribal campus, and it just seemed like all the pieces fit.”

The grant paid for half of the three-million-dollar solar farm, which began operating last year.

Box: “It is connected to the grid, and the solar panels actually rotate and follow the path of the sun to get the most solar energy created.”

That solar power now offsets 15 percent of the energy costs on 10 tribal buildings, including an animal shelter, community center, construction facilities, and education buildings.

The Southern Utes are just one of a growing number of tribes looking to renewables as a way to reduce energy costs and develop reliable sources of electricity for future generations.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...