OPINION: Green investments will have long-term benefits for CN
A fundamental principle of our Cherokee culture is that we should consider the impact of what we do today on the next seven generations of future Cherokees. We are answering this sacred responsibility by investing in strong communities and a clean and healthy environment.
Just over a year ago, I initiated the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act to invest $30 million for elder homes and community building improvements across the Cherokee Nation reservation. One result of that investment is enabling two Cherokee community buildings to install rooftop solar panels. The Tri-Community Association, which serves residents in Welling, Eldon and Briggs in Cherokee County, as well as the Native American Fellowship Inc., serving South Coffeyville in Nowata County, are using solar panels to cut their energy costs dramatically.
At the Cherokee County building, a 26.4 kW system of 66 solar panels will offset over half of the community building’s energy costs and save over $100,000 in energy costs over the life of the system. It is estimated to reduce carbon emissions equal to about 60,500 miles annually for an average car, or about 650,000 pounds of coal burned at a conventional power plant. In Nowata County, a 4.4kW system with 11 solar panels will offset approximately 70% of the community building’s energy costs, saving over $23,000. It is estimated to reduce emissions equivalent to nearly 10,200 miles annually in an average car, or 110,000 pounds of coal.
These centers have traditionally been places where our citizens can gather, socialize, share Cherokee history and culture, and enjoy a meal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have served as the local leads for food storage and distribution to elders and Cherokee families in need. By reducing their energy costs, we free up dollars to help more citizens and feed more people. Our community organizations will be able to expand their reach, and we hope this is just the beginning of building similar cost-saving installations for all Cherokee community buildings.
I’ve always been an advocate for community solar use, because reducing our carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels is a global problem that the CN can help solve. We have set a goal to reduce the CN’s carbon emissions 25% by 2027. These solar projects are an important step toward that goal. Our clean energy projects reflect the value of environmental stewardship that has long been part of our history and culture.
These projects are just the beginning. As renewable energy becomes increasingly visible, viable and affordable, we will see it grow across the Cherokee Nation. Soon, we will expand our electric vehicle infrastructure, including launching the first public rural electric bus transit system in the United States here in the Cherokee Nation. I’m proud that Cherokee Nation continuously finds innovative ways to lead. I hope that seven generations from now, Cherokees will look back on us with pride at our responsible stewardship of land, air, water and community.