Nez Perce Tribe Installs Tesla Megapack

By Rachel Sun

Clean energy efforts by the Nez Perce Tribe has brought Idaho its very first Tesla Megapack — a battery storage system capable of powering “every home in San Francisco for 6 hours,” according to the company website.

The tribe is using the giant powerpack to store energy from solar panels and power the Lapwai Wastewater Treatment Plant, which serves the entire Nez Perce tribe. 

There are two main reasons tribal government elected to purchase the powerpack, said Shannon Wheeler, the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee chair.

The first was to move the tribe toward their goal of net zero emissions, Wheeler said. In that regard, they’re looking at the possibility of adding a second megapack to power tribal government offices.

The second goal is to set an example for renewable energy options. Specifically, they’re hoping to show that the four Lower Snake River dams are no longer necessary for affordable, clean energy.

“That gives the region and the tribe an opportunity to view firsthand options of renewable energies, and not relying solely on hydro power,” Wheeler said. “In our position as a tribe, [the] fisheries work that we do affects our juvenile migration of salmon to the ocean. So that’s a large piece for us.”

The Nez Perce Tribe, along with various environmental groups, has advocated for the removal of the four dams on the lower Snake River for decades, citing the dams’ negative impact on Salmon runs. So far those dams have stayed in place, largely due to concerns about how their removal would affect energy prices.

Now, Wheeler said, they’re hoping they can prove to people in the region that those dams aren’t needed anymore.Net zero

Support for the removal of the dams seems to have increased in recent years. Just this year, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, proposed the removal of the dams, and a survey of 800 Washington residents finding the majority said they would support the removal. Of those respondents, 63% of Seattle area residents supported removal compared to 47% of Eastern Washington residents.

Still, Simpson’s proposal was rejected, the advocates of the dam removals face an uphill battle if they’re going to change enough minds.

“The hope I’m hearing is that people in the region will see there’s other options for affordable energy that will also allow that river to flow the way that it used to and bring back the salmon,” Wheeler said.