Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) announced yesterday that Pacific Wind and Solar will get $1,359,489 to install solar power systems on Northern Marianas Housing Corp. homes on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan, while the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. will receive $382,000 to buy 63 pole-mounted transformers. Congress appropriates the funds to the Department of Agriculture each year to assist remote areas such as the Northern Mariana Islands that have very high electricity costs.
“Congress provides the money,” Sablan said, “but it takes well done, competitive grant applications to bring the money to the Marianas.
“I congratulate Mr. Brian Clayton and the team at Pacific Wind and Solar and Mr. Greg Burkett and everyone at CUC, who are helping our community make electricity more affordable.”
Pacific Wind and Solar, a Saipan-based company, will use the money to install solar arrays on 82 homes. Each home will have 12 250-watt commercial-grade solar panels, generating a total of 3 kilowatts of power. This is expected to cover about 70 percent of all electricity needs for the people in those households.
The project will benefit 32 families in Koblerville Estates, 48 families in Mihaville Estates in Garapan, 20 families in Broadway Estates on Tinian, and 17 families at Blue Bay Homes in Songsong Village on Rota.
CUC will use its money to replace 63 pole-mounted electric transformers. The transformers are oversized for the businesses they serve, which results in line losses of up to 30 percent. Right-sizing the transformers is expected to save $265,735 per year, a saving that can be passed on to consumers.
The funds come through the High Energy Cost Grant program, administered by Rural Development at the Department of Agriculture.
High Energy Cost Grants may be used to improve energy generation, transmission or distribution facilities in communities where the average residential cost for home energy exceeds 275 percent of the national average. The grants are available to businesses, non-profit groups, states, local governments and federally recognized Indian tribes.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack awarded funds for nine projects in all, worth $7.9 million. “These grants will help deliver energy more cost-effectively and will help the environment,” Vilsack said.
He noted that when businesses and families spend less on fuel and electricity, they have more money to invest in the local economy. “This helps create jobs and benefits entire communities.”
And, he said, the program helps the environment by reducing carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels.
In addition to the two projects in the Northern Marianas, there are three in Alaska, two in Hawaii, and one each in Arizona and South Dakota. (PR)