CLAREMORE, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation recently installed rooftop solar panels on the Rogers County Cherokee Association community building to save on its utility costs by 90 percent.

The installation is the fifth Cherokee community organization to get an eco-friendly boost as part of the $30 million Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act created by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner in 2019.

Under the act, $30 million is set aside to help Cherokee citizens with housing repairs and upgrade Cherokee community buildings with connectivity and sustainability projects such as solar power, HVAC systems and Wi-Fi connectivity.

“These solar panels really accomplish two things: first, they help eliminate our overall carbon footprint, which as Cherokees, we should be trying to do to so we can be responsible stewards of our environment,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Second, groups like Rogers County Cherokee Association do a lot for elders and kids, and if we can reduce their utility cost like we’re going to do through this solar panel installation, then they stretch their dollars a lot farther to benefit our citizens. Because they’re nonprofits, they operate on lean budgets, and this eco-friendly project will mean so much to the group and the services they provide their community.”

Over the lifetime of the solar panels and subsequent reduction of utility costs at the RCCA community building, the savings will be equivalent to taking multiple vehicles off the road and planting thousands of trees.

Chief Hoskin, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha and Tribal Councilors Keith Austin and Danny Callison recently met with Lynn Wilson, treasurer of the RCCA, to celebrate the beginning of installation on the energy-efficient project.

“It makes me proud to be Cherokee,” Tribal Councilor Danny Callison, of Pryor, said. “It makes me proud that Chief Hoskin, Deputy Chief Warner and Secretary Harsha are all taking us and improving our lifestyles. This is a great thing for cost, saving on utility bills and helping the environment.”

Wilson said the solar project will help ensure the Rogers County Cherokee Association will continue to provide important services to Cherokee citizens in the area.

“As a small non-profit organization, our only source of revenue comes from membership fees and donations,” Wilson said. “Our electricity bill is the biggest expense we have. Last year, even though our facility was basically unused because of COVID, we spent $1,200 on electricity. The solar panels will reduce our energy cost by around 80 percent. The money we will save can now be used for other programs like culture classes and our community garden. It is also the first step in making our community center a place citizens can take refuge and receive help in the event of a natural disaster.”

So far, the Cherokee Nation has also assisted Mid County Community Organization in Adair County, Native American Fellowship Inc. in Nowata County, Tri-Community Association in Cherokee County, and Neighborhood Association of Chewey in Adair County with rooftop solar panel installations.