Sun harnessed to power Fallon tribe building

Father Sun has always provided light and warmth for the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe according to lore, but now he's helping to generate electricity.

Power now flows from the roof of the tribe's administration building, thanks to a series of solar panels installed over the summer.

"This facility will demonstrate the tribe's efforts to help save our environment by harnessing the sun's power to produce some of the electricity the tribe needs," said Alvin Moyle, chairman of the tribe. "It will also provide us with a building that is self contained in terms of power, which is a good alternative in the event of an emergency."

The 12 kilowatt system is part of Sierra Pacific Power's SolarGenerations program, a state-approved initiative to stimulate solar development through rebates offered to participants.

Sierra Pacific presented a $50,393.40 check to the tribe as a rebate for construction of the system at an open house at the administration building, 565 Rio Vista Drive, and dedication of the solar power system held on Thursday.

Sixty solar modules mounted on the roof of the building convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity, which flows to an inverter and is converted to alternating current (AC) power. When the system produces more power than it needs, the building's electric meter runs backward, reducing the electric bill.

As of Thursday, nearly 3,500 kilowatt hours of power have been produced since the system went online. Alternative Energy Solutions of Reno installed the system and display unit.

The total cost of the project was about $83,000, said Tim Carlson, president of Carlson & Associates, an economic development consultant for the tribe. With the cost savings generated by the solar panels, the system should pay for itself in six or seven years.

"These are the things we're trying to do as far as energy development here at the tribe," Carlson said.

Opening ceremonies included a prayer from Ashley George, a spiritual leader for the tribe.

Representatives from the Walker River Paiute Tribe, the city of Fallon, NAS Fallon, Churchill County and the Fallon Chamber of Commerce attended the open house and toured the administration building.

Native American artwork and photography were hung throughout the halls of the administration building, some of which will become a permanent display.

The tribe purchased the building, the former Intuit call center, last year. The software maker closed its Fallon operation in March 2002.


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