This last week was an important one as our good friends from the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) came to visit us on the Pine Ridge Reservation. RREAL is working to break down financial and informational barriers to the widespread use of solar energy out in Minnesota. They feel that like the digital divide which separates communities based on access to information, there is also a renewable energy divide and that specifically lower income communities are in danger of being left behind as our society shifts towards a renewable economy.
These are our types of folks and a natural friendship has evolved that is slowly becoming a successful partnership as we share ideas, equipment and a vision to extend solar heating systems and other renewable energy applications to those who need it most.
This week, Jason Edens Tim Ollhoff and Steve Benson arrived at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) on Pine Ridge with three of their solar heating systems. The first one they installed with Henry and Avery Red Cloud of Lakota Solar Enterprises at the Lakota Children’s Village, which serves as the home for Lakota children in need of shelter.
It was a most wonderful installation that will provide heat for pennies a day for Lakota children in great need for many years to come!
Their second solar heating system was installed as a solar demonstration and education unit at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. The Center is being developed as a place for tribal members from across the Great Plains and beyond to be trained in facility and family sized renewable energy applications and installations.
The third unit will be installed by Lakota Solar Enterprises for another family at Pine Ridge in the weeks ahead.
We also planted windbreaks and shade trees for two families at the Fraggle Rock community in Pine Ridge. The north wind there blows hard and cold for much of the winter causing entire rooms in homes to be abandoned during winter because they are so cold. So we plant trees as family windbreaks which will immediately start to shield the homes from the bitter chill and will grow over the years into a solid wall of protec
tion. We also planted two shade trees at each house to provide shade during the extremely hot summers.
While we were in the neighborhood, we also installed one of LSE’s solar heating systems. Together, we will use these three homes to demonstrate natural ways to lower heating costs and we will now begin to raise funds for additional tree planting in the neighborhood in the spring of 2009.
A special thanks to TWP’s Tribal Lands Program Coordinator, Liz Sunderland, who coordinated the RREAL visit and handled many of the logistical details of getting these five installations done.
That’s the true spirit of Trees, Water & People....getting difficult things done…. and done well!