Cherokee Nation gives eco-friendly boost to community centers

Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach director Kevin Stretch, Secretary of State Tina Glory Jordan, Cherokee Nation Treasurer Tralynna Scott, Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha, First Lady January Hoskin, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chief of Staff Todd Enlow, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Tri-Community Association members Vernon Sellers and Glenda Sellers, TCA Treasurer Pam Sellers and TCA President J.R. Sellers.

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation officials recently joined community leaders of  Tri-Community Association in Briggs and Native American Fellowship Inc., in South Coffeyville to celebrate the installation of rooftop solar panels to their community buildings to help lower utility costs as well as provide an eco-friendly energy source.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and other tribal officials met with community leaders to cut the ribbon on the energy-efficient projects as part of the $30 million Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act Chief Hoskin announced in August 2019.

“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, and one result of that investment is enabling Cherokee community buildings to install rooftop solar panels,” Hoskin said. “I could not be prouder of these two organizations, who 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 other Cherokee community buildings.”

Under the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act, 75 percent of the $30 million is helping Cherokee citizens with housing repairs. The other 25 percent is set aside to upgrade Cherokee community buildings with connectivity and sustainability projects such as solar power, HVAC systems and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The solar project is distributed through the tribe’s Community & Cultural Outreach sustainability grant, which is meant to fund green-friendly efforts and other cost-saving renewable energy technology in Cherokee community buildings across the tribe’s 14 county reservation.

Tri-Community Association, serving residents in Welling, Eldon and Briggs in Cherokee County, received 66 solar panels through this project, making it the largest solar installation so far under the Act. The 26.4 kW system 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. The panels are 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 three and half years, we’ve provided 60,000 meals and there have been times when our utility bills have been so high that we didn’t know how we were going to pay them, but we always managed to. That’s where we got the idea for the need for solar panels,” said Tri-Community Association President J.R. Sellers. “We couldn’t do what we are doing if it wasn’t for Cherokee Nation. We are getting things today that we couldn’t get any other way. To say thank you would be an understatement.”

NAFI, serving residents of South Coffeyville in Nowata County, was the first Cherokee community organization to receive the solar panels. NAFI received 11 solar panels with a 4.4kW system, which will offset approximately 70 percent of the community building’s energy costs, saving more than $23,000. The system is estimated to reduce emissions equivalent to nearly 10,200 miles annually in an average car, or 110,000 pounds of coal.

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