$1.8 m. in federal funds for solar, CUC efficiency


WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan announced today that Pacific Wind and Solar will get $1,359,489 to install solar power systems on Northern Marianas Housing Corporation homes on Rota, Tinian and Saipan, and the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation will receive $382,000 to buy 63 pole-mounted transformers. Congress appropriates the funds to the Department of Agriculture each year to assist areas, such as the Northern Mariana Islands, that have very high electricity costs.

“Congress provides the money,” Congressman Sablan said, “But it takes well-done, competitive grant applications to bring the money to the Marianas.

“I congratulate Mr. Brian Clayton and the team at Pacific Wind and Solar and Mr. Greg Burkett and everyone at CUC, who are helping our community make electricity more affordable.”

Pacific Wind and Solar, a Saipan-based company, will use the money to install solar arrays on 82 homes. Each home will have twelve, 250 watt commercial-grade solar panels, generating a total of 3 kilowatts of power. This is expected to cover about 70 percent of all electricity needs for the people in those households.

The project will benefit 32 families in Koblerville Estates, 48 families in Mihaville Estates in Garapan, 20 families in Broadway Estates on Tinian, and 17 families at Blue Bay Homes in Songsong Village on Rota.

CUC will use its money to replace 63 pole-mounted electric transformers. The transformers are oversized for the businesses they serve, which results in line losses of up to 30 percent. Right-sizing the transformers is expected to save $265,735 per year, a saving that can be passed on to consumers.

The funds come through the High Energy Cost Grant program, administered by Rural Development at the Department of Agriculture.

High Energy Cost Grants may be used to improve energy generation, transmission or distribution facilities in communities where the average residential cost for home energy exceeds 275 percent of the national average. The grants are available to businesses, non-profit groups, states, local governments and federally recognized Indian tribes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded funds today for nine projects in all, worth $7.9 million. “These grants will help deliver energy more cost-effectively and will help the environment,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack noted that when businesses and families spend less on fuel and electricity, they have more money to invest in the local economy. “This helps create jobs and benefits entire communities.”

And, he said, the program helps the environment by reducing carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels.

In addition to the two projects in the Northern Marianas, there are three in Alaska, two in Hawai’i, and one each in Arizona and South Dakota:


1.      Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium – $426,916 to retrofit sanitation systems and train operators in the eight communities of Napaskiak, Nunapitchuk, Chefornak, Nightmute, Tuntutuliak, Newtok, Teller and Tununak. These communities have no road access, high energy costs and struggling economies. The project will upgrade interior and exterior lighting; install new controls for heating systems and laundry services, and new controls for water storage and pumping; and make weatherization improvements.

2.      Puvurnaq Power Company – $857,920 to integrate a 200 kilowatt lithium ion-based battery energy storage system into the wind-diesel power system in Kongiganak, Alaska.  This project will lower fuel consumption by up to 20,000 gallons per year and save the community about $92,000 annually.

1.      Ipnatchiaq Electric Utility – $175,071 to 1) bring electricians to Deering for five weeks; 2) replace three deteriorated poles; 3) replace insulator caps; 4) repair the distribution system; and 5) train staff at the utility to operate and maintain the system. The Ipnatchiaq Electric Utility is in Deering, Alaska, on the Kotzebue Sound at the mouth of the Immachuk River, 57 miles southwest of Kotzebue. The 122 residents are predominantly Alaska Native (Inupiat Eskimo).


2.      Switching Gears, LLC – $500,000 to install three 110 kilowatt wind turbines in the North Kohala District on the big island of Hawaii. The turbines will lower the overall cost for electricity in this community.

3.      Heritage Ranch, Inc. – $896,450 to provide equipment and technical assistance for a solar energy network that will serve 255 native Hawaiian in Miloli’i, in a remote southwest corner of the big island of Hawaii. The community is one of a few traditional fishing villages in Hawaii. It has no utility-provided electricity and no potable water. Residents pay high rates to have fuel and water delivered. This project will provide solar power for electricity, refrigeration and cooking, and a solar distillation kit to procure safe drinking water.


4.      Hualapai Tribe – $1,881,130 to build an electrical transmission line from Grand Canyon West to a substation operated by UniSource Energy Services. The project will reduce the cost of electricity from 46 cents per kilowatt hour to 8 cents per kilowatt hour. Lowering energy costs will make housing more affordable for workers who commute to Grand Canyon West.

South Dakota

1.      Sacred Power LLC – $1,406,975 to install wind turbines that will provide energy at homes in the St. Francis community within the Rosebud Sioux. Each household system will includes a 1.8 kilowatt Pika T701 wind turbine, and one Pika X3001 inverter to condition the power for the grid.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA has provided 52 High Energy Cost Grants, totaling $64 million and benefiting communities burdened by high fuel costs in 12 states, two U.S. territories and two areas of the Western Pacific.

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