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Red Cliff Awarded Department of Energy Sub-Grant to Install Solar Microgrids

As Appeared in

Red Cliff News

The Red Cliff Tribe has been selected for an award negotiation as part of a U.S. Department of Energy program with the State of Wisconsin’s Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy (OSCE). This government-to-government effort between the Red Cliff Tribe and the State of Wisconsin will allow the Tribe to install solar microgrids at two important community locations in Gaa-Miskwaabikaang as part of the Resilience and Prosperity in Rural Northern Wisconsin program.

If awarded, the Red Cliff Community Health Center and the Tribe’s new Red Cliff Transportation Facility will be outfitted with solar photovoltaic and battery storage system microgrids, providing a sustainable and renewable energy source for each building. The microgrid systems will provide energy stability with backup power in case of power grid outages, which happen frequently due to lake-enhanced extreme weather events. The systems will be designed and implemented by muGrid, which will serve as the Lead Project Manager and system architect.

“This is wonderful news for the Red Cliff Tribe that will increase our renewable energy efforts and provide much-needed reliable energy during emergencies,” said Red Cliff Chairwoman Nicole Boyd. “Clean energy, environmental protection, and workforce development are recurring topics when we get feedback from our community. We are thankful to be the largest awardee of the total grant, and the Tribe is excited to be working with Wisconsin OSCE.”

This project will further advance the Tribe’s work on implementing sustainable and clean energy sources across Gaa-Miskwaabikaang, adding to the Tribe’s first microgrid system that was installed at the Red Cliff Early Childhood Center in 2023.

“Increasing renewable energy independence is directly in line with the Tribe’s mission to provide natural resources protection while enhancing energy resiliency,” said Red Cliff Environmental Director Linda Nguyen. “Especially in the face of disruptions caused by disasters, this project will improve our capacity to ensure a healthy environment for our future generations.”

Microgrid System at the Red Cliff Community Health Center

The microgrid and battery energy storage system at the Health Center will control all of the power needs for the facility. The system will utilize photovoltaic panels to harness solar power to charge the battery system. In the event of a power outage, the facility would switch to the battery power, limiting the need to use generator-backed power.

“The Health Center is an incredibly important part of our community, and the health and wellbeing of our people must be protected,” said Red Cliff Health Division Administrator Diane Erickson. “We will be able to rely on this system to provide power to our facility even during major area outages, ensuring our community can continue receiving uninterrupted care when they need it.”

Microgrid System at the Red Cliff Transportation Center

The microgrid and battery storage system at the new Red Cliff Transportation Center will be similar to the system at the Health Center. The new transportation facility is expected to be completed by the winter of 2025. The microgrid will likely be installed simultaneously during the transportation facility construction process.

“The Transportation Center will be a key part in housing our Miskwaabekong Transit program, which provides local mass transit services to more than 15,000 riders each year,” said Red Cliff Transportation Director Jeff Benton. “Ensuring reliable power at the Transportation Center will also be crucial for our ability to provide road maintenance services that allow Tribal and County first responders to travel on safe routes.”

Cost Savings and Workforce Development

In addition to providing clean energy, both microgrids and battery storage systems will produce significant cost savings for the Tribe through interconnection agreements with local utility companies. When the battery power reaches its storage limit, it pumps excess energy back into the area’s power grid. The utility company will then issue a credit on the Tribe’s electric bill to reflect the excess power returned to the grid.

This project will provide workforce development opportunities for the community, including a full-time position in the Red Cliff Treaty Natural Resources Division to manage the energy projects. Training and technical education opportunities are expected to be provided for Tribal Members as part of this project, including opportunities for certified community members to participate in installing the systems.

“The Treaty Natural Resources Division has many dedicated employees that serve the Tribe’s environmental protection goals, and a full-time energy project manager will be a welcomed addition to our staff,” said Red Cliff Treaty Natural Resources Division Administrator Dylan Jennings. “We’re also looking forward to providing more training opportunities like the Solar Boot Camp that was offered leading up to the ECC solar project.”

Bayfield County is also a sub-awardee of this DOE grant. The Resilience and Prosperity in Rural Northern Wisconsin program will provide various energy projects across the County, including the communities of Cable, Clover, Drummond, Grandview, Iron River, Mason, Port Wing, Russell, and Washburn.


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