By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Contracts have been awarded for the construction of a solar power farm at Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy. Siemens Government Technologies received the $2.36 million contract from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians “to install, operate, and maintain a solar photovoltaic (PV) power farm consisting of a 2,000 photovaltaic panel array” according to information obtained from the company.
Siemens awarded the contract to design and construct the 700 kilowatt solar energy system to Hannah Solar Government Services (HSGS), a veteran-owned business based in Charleston, SC. According to information from HSGS, “The power produced by this ground-mounted solar array will offset a portion of the energy demand from the casino and hotel as well as two administration buildings. HSGS will begin the construction of Harrah’s solar array in the summer of 2018.”
Barbara Humpton, president and chief executive officer of Siemens Government Technologies, Inc., said in a statement, “As an experienced federal energy savings contractor with a proven track record of delivering highly successful solar PV projects, we are proud to partner with EBCI in helping them meet their energy efficiency and sustainability goals. We look forward to be a trusted partner for EBCI – and all Native American tribes – for many years to come.”
Col. (Ret.) Dave McNeil, HSGS president and chief executive officer, said, “The HSGS team and I are humbled to have been selected by Siemens Government Technologies to design and install the 700 kW solar array for the EBCI at Harrah’s. We are veterans proud to continue serving our country and look forward to beginning construction.”
HSGS officials noted that a total of 2,016 solar panels will be installed at the project.
Joey Owle, EBCI Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said, “The Strategic Energy Plan, generated in 2009, references Res. 636 (2007) that established the following energy goals: (1) To protect, preserve and ensure the wise utilization of the limited natural resources located on Tribal Lands for the Cherokee people in the most efficient manner and in an effective way that the natural beauty of Tribal lands and natural resources, which are the basis of its cultural economic well-being, are preserved and protected; (2) To identify opportunities for economic and community development for the Tribe that promote sustainable development; and (3) To identify energy cost savings opportunities for the Tribe.”
He added, “While the direct impact of this project is for the Harrah’s Valley River Casino and Hotel, it ultimately saves the Tribe money in the long haul. The 700 kW solar PV array is expected to save the facility nearly $100,000 per year in energy costs. The ROI is 13 years with a system life expectancy of 20 – 25 years. All energy produced will be consumed on site. This is the Tribe’s first project of this scale. As we begin to develop our Renewable Energy program, we will explore opportunities for multi megawatt system development in our area, as well as smaller 3 kW, 5 kW, and 10 kW systems for residential application. We limited in solar development due to our location. But, that should not inhibit deployment where feasible.”
HSGS has installed large ground arrays before such as a 939.9 kilowatt system at the Ft. Allen Solar Farm, U.S. Army National Guard, in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico; a 2.03 megawatt system at the Otarre Solar Facility in Cayce, SC; and a 502.3 kilowatt system at the Tuscon International Airport in Tuscon, Ariz. among others.
This project is being funded with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy with the Tribe picking up the remaining $1.36 million. According to information from the DOE, “This community scale PV farm would supply power to four buildings totaling 155,352 square feet: casino (110,400 square feet), hotel (23,000 square feet), and two administration buildings (10,976 square feet each). All power generated would be consumed onsite.”
According to an EBCI report entitled “A Community Solar Project” released November 2017, the energy usage at Valley River from Oct. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016 was 11,497,081 kilowatt hours. Using that figure, Siemens projects 1,019,870 kilowatt hours of electricity savings which would equate to a dollar savings of $100,355 (8.9 percent).