Tribe receives first rebate for solar energy |

Tribe receives first rebate for solar energy

Becky Bosshart

Marie Barry, environmental director for the Washoe Tribe, is hoping her department’s energy bill will show a dramatically different number in the “amount due” box.

A few months ago the tribe had photovoltaic, or solar, panels installed in the Washoe Environmental Protection Department building at 950 Highway 395 in Gardnerville.

“I’m expecting it to be a great deal more efficient, but we haven’t seen any results because we haven’t gotten a bill yet,” she said Monday. “So, it’s too early to tell.”

But the solar panels won’t just save them utility costs.

Today the tribe will receive a $33,185 rebate check from Sierra Pacific Power Co. through a state program that encourages use of renewable energy.

Barry said the tribe decided to install solar panels because it wanted to make the environmental building “green,” but the only switch they could afford to make was with the panels.

“I’m excited that we’re the first applicant to the program,” she said.

Karl Walquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific, said the solar energy rebate program rewards those who install solar panels in their homes or businesses. He said the Washoe Tribe rebate check is important because it’s the first one issued in the state since the program took effect in 2003.

“The state Legislature passed the legislation creating the program and the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada had the responsibilities of implementing the program,” Walquist said. “They created regulations that made the rebates possible.”

Rebecca Wagner, spokeswoman for the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, said the tribe’s rebate is based on the size of its solar panel system. The rebate is $5 per watt, and the tribe’s solar panel system is about 7.5 kilowatts.

“Somebody is doing it, and I think it’s really exciting that it’s in Northern Nevada and within the tribe,” she said.

Wagner said the average homeowner wouldn’t receive such a large rebate.

“Most homes have a very small system, just a few kilowatts,” she said. “So it is going to vary system to system how much they would get back.”

Barry said the tribe will use the $33,185 to reimburse the Environmental Protection Agency’s general-assistance program, which bought the tribe’s solar panels.

Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.

if you go

What: Washoe Tribe’s rebate check presentation

Where: Sierra Pacific Power Co.’s Reno headquarters at 6100 Neil Road

When: 1:30 p.m. today

Why: The tribe installed solar panels into an office building, which qualifies it for a rebate from the SolarGenerations program. The program was approved by the 2003 session of the Nevada Legislature.