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Viejas Tribe Secures $31M CEC Grant

UTILITIES: Ensuring a Bright Future

The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians has secured a $31 million California Energy Commission grant. At a news conference earlier this month at its casino in Alpine, the Tribe’s chairman said the funds will be used to build a cutting-edge, long-duration battery storage facility for renewable energy to be used by tribal members as well as at the Tribe’s casino, hotel and outlet mall in East County.

Allen G. Cadreau
CEO
Indian Energy LLC

The energy storage system also will provide renewable backup power and support statewide grid reliability in the event of an emergency.

The grant is among the largest given to an Indian tribe in California history by the CEC.

The company tapped for the build is Indian Energy LLC, a privately held Native American-owned and operated microgrid developer founded in 2009 and based in Anaheim with an office in San Diego and another in Baja, Mexico.

Indian Energy specializes in developing large-scale advanced energy resiliency solutions for the U.S. Department of Defense, Community Choice Aggregators and Tribal Utility Authorities.

Indian Energy will integrate more than 30,000 photovoltaic solar panels on its parking garage carports and other areas around the casino and hotel. The panels will be capable of outputting 15 megawatts of clean power, with 60 megawatt-hour advanced long-duration energy storage.

Construction is expected to start Jan. 9 and could be completed as early as next summer, according to Indian Energy founder and CEO Allen G. Cadreau.

“The Viejas Nation has to be able to take care of its tribal citizens,” Cadreau said. “And I couldn’t be happier or more proud to be partnering with other tribal entities to help solve some of the issues we’ve got in this state. Indian Energy’s mission is to support Indian Country on their journey toward energy sovereignty while creating a sustainable future for our seventh generation.”

Going Green

John Christman
Tribal Chairman
Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians

“When we first contemplated even going this route, it actually came from our voting public,” said Viejas tribal chairman John Christman. “They were asking, ‘When are we going to go green? Are you looking at solar?’ The council was all on board. All of us were looking toward the future.”

“We have generations in this valley, it goes back thousands of years,” Cristman added. “That’s how long we’ve been here, and we’re going to stay here. And staying here means we have to be stewards of our own land, of our own environment. The next generation (will) be able to follow this and keep going forward, with renewable energy.”

Similar grids are in use outside of the U.S., but officials said this system is one of the first of its kind in the country.

Transitioning from Fossil Fuels

Energy storage, essential to California’s transition away from fossil fuels, absorbs excess renewable power generated by day and discharges the power in the evening when demand peaks. Spikes in electricity typically begin after 4 p.m. and continue into the evening with greater demand on the grid.

Most storage systems use lithium-ion battery technology, which can provide up to four hours of energy, but have had flammability challenges. The Viejas project will use non-lithium long-duration technologies, which offer up to 10 hours of power.

Christman said the non-lithium battery system “supports the environmental protection and cultural stewardship of our ancestral land, thereby ensuring the vibrant future of our children.”

Nicole Reiter
VP of Development
Indian Energy LLC

Nicole Reiter, vice president of development for Indian Energy said her company, which signed a 30-year power purchase agreement with Viejas, is focused on giving back to the community and supporting a sustainable future for the planet.

Reiter said that the microgrid is “so much more” than just an energy source. “This project is about the CEC’s commitment to leading the country and creating a sustainable future for California. It’s about the Viejas tribe, about investing in not only what today brings but what tomorrow brings.”

“The possibilities for energy sovereignty, for developing a tribal workforce, creating meaningful, sustainable jobs that benefit Native Americans and set the stage for tribes everywhere to embark on their own journey,” Reiter added. “However small it may be, we are shifting the paradigm by developing this project.”

David Hochschild
Chair
California Energy Commission

David Hochschild, chair of the CEC, said in some ways the project helps heal some of the past wrongs done to the Native American community.

“Remember this day, it is a very significant milestone,” he said. “There is a tragic history in California and across the country with what happened to Native American communities. Land being stolen, language being stolen, lives being taken. And we have to face that honestly and fully. We can’t build the future we need to build without understanding the past.”

He also said the state is looking to demonstrate the performance and potential of long-duration energy storage systems as California works to achieve 100 percent clean electricity.

“I’m incredibly proud that the very first large-scale long duration storage project that we’re doing in California is with the tribe and with this tribe in particular,” Hochschild said. “We’re on the cutting edge, the edge of the spear, as we build this clean energy future. This is the largest long duration storage grant ever given. I believe this is part of the seed planting we need to do to build a clean energy future.”

The project will include a zinc hybrid cathode battery system called Znyth from Eos Energy Enterprises and North America’s largest vanadium flow battery from Invinity Energy Systems.

Larry Zulch
CEO
Invinity Energy Systems

Znyth is a reliable, flexible and long-duration (three- to 12-hour) energy storage solution, specifically made for projects like the coming Viejas enterprise microgrid. The Invinity battery system stores the collected energy in a liquid solution using vanadium, an element more common in the earth’s crust than copper, said Larry Zulch, CEO of Invinity.

Vanadium a ‘Smarter Choice’

Zulch said vanadium is also safer and smarter technological choice than lithium. “It is fantastic to have an alternative to lithium, especially with the lithium market getting tighter and tighter as more cars are going to lithium,” he said, adding that the project “checks many boxes” for the CEC.

The CEC grant is the first awarded under the state’s new $140 million Long-Duration Energy Storage Program. The program is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $54 billion commitment to fight climate change and use world-leading measures to cut pollution, deploy clean energy and new technologies, and protect public health.

The CEC says that more than 48,000 MW of battery storage and 4,000 MW of long-duration storage will be needed by 2045 to meet clean-energy mandates. Next year, the CEC will seek applications for competitive grants for other long-duration non lithium-ion storage projects. Between $50 million to $180 million is expected to be available.

Indian Energy LLC

FOUNDED: 2009
FOUNDER/CEO: Allen G. Cadreau
HEADQUARTERS: Anaheim
BUSINESS: Utility-scale and microgrid development and systems integration
REVENUE: $3.4 million
WEBSITE: indianenergy.com
CONTACT: 714-686-9792
SOCIAL IMPACT: Company is 100% Native American-owned.
NOTABLE: The firm also sells power to military installations.

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