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Choctaw Nation gets grant for energy projects

Fré Sonneveld

The Choctaw Nation is receiving $5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to install a battery storage system and make their tribal facilities more energy efficient.

Like many parts of Oklahoma, intense or extreme weather knocks the electricity out at Choctaw Nation’s Poteau campus. Since 2018 the campus loses power three times annually on average and has seen as many as five outages in a year, according to the department.

The project Greencare: Empowering Resilience in Poteau, aims to install battery storage systems to create a microgrid and carry out energy-efficient upgrades in seven buildings.

During outages, the microgrid will provide backup power for a health clinic, child development center and food distribution center. In addition to supplying electricity, the project will reduce reliance on greenhouse gas emissions, according to the announcement.

“We are tremendously excited with the opportunity to provide consistent power for our tribal members in the Poteau area, especially with services such as healthcare,” Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton said in a press release published by the McAlester News-Capital newspaper.

Energy efficiency equipment upgrades can include everything from new or updated HVAC systems and water heaters to replacing light fixtures. The improvements are estimated to save $140,000 in electricity costs annually and the overall project is expected to provide local employment opportunities.

The funding is from the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas program, which is designed to improve energy systems in communities with 10,000 people or less. The Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations manages the program.

The energy agency awarded $78 million in grants for 19 projects in 12 states and 13 Tribal nations. According to the announcement, the energy projects are in or near historically underserved communities disproportionately impacted by pollution.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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