CN citizens trying solar panels on homes to lower utility costs

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/29/2018 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
From left to right are Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard, Linda and Johnny Gifford and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. at the Giffords’ home where solar panels have been installed. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – A Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation pilot program is using solar energy panels on several Cherokee Nation citizens’ homes to save on monthly utility costs.

The program is funded through an Indian Community Development Block Grant, which covered the cost of installing solar panels on 17 homes the HACN was remodeling for elders.

Installations began in October 2017 and so far families living in the energy efficient homes have saved an average of 50 percent on their monthly electric bills, officials said.

“We know that solar energy is both renewable and plentiful, and over time, more and more homes around the country are taking advantage of this resource,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “This pilot program in the Cherokee Nation gives us the opportunity to not only reduce utility costs for Cherokee families, but to study whether it is feasible to place solar panels on more homes in the future. So far we have received excellent feedback from homeowners.”

Electricity consumption, direct hours of daily sunlight, the size and angle of a home’s roof, local electricity rates and the size of the solar panel system all play a role in determining how much a family can save on utility costs by using solar panels, officials said.

“The Cherokee Nation has been a trend-setter in Indian Country when it comes to its use of renewable energy, so it should not be surprising to see the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation using this pilot project to find even more opportunities,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “It is clear that Cherokee families who are participating in this program have seen great benefits to their budget, while our environment is also benefitting. That’s the kind of win-win scenario we’re always looking for in the tribe.”

CN citizen Linda Gifford and her husband, Johnny, live in Spavinaw, a small community of around 450 residents in northeast Mayes County. When the HACN began a rehab project on the couple’s home, the Giffords agreed to participate in the solar panel project.

Like other participating families, the Giffords’ electric bills have seen drastic reductions since the panels were installed.

“The impact of these solar panels has been quite noticeable at our home,” Linda said. “They have cut our utility bill each month. We relied on window air units to cool our house in the summer. In 2017, we paid around $180 one month for our electricity bill, and in 2018 during that same month, we paid a little over $70 with the solar panels installed. We are thankful for the opportunity to participate and appreciate the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation for approaching us about it.”

Placement of solar panels cost an average of around $19,780 per home, but varied depending on the home’s location, the size of the solar panel system, agreements with utility companies and other factors.

The solar panels carry a 10-year warranty and will be monitored quarterly with rural Wi-Fi or a cellular network. The tribe is evaluating the results of the pilot program and is looking for future grant opportunities that would provide more solar panels for the homes of Cherokee families.

There are six homes in Adair County with the panels, three in Cherokee County, four in Mayes County, one in Muskogee and Sequoyah counties and two in Rogers County.

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