by John Motley, National Program Assistant
Lately, we have had many firsts at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. In early February, we conducted our first ever Solar Hot Water Heater Training along with having our first trainee from an Alaskan tribe visit RCREC. With the frigid weather on the Great Plains making life hard for many Lakotas, there could be no better time to install a solar hot water heater, and we were happy to have a new friend from Alaska join us for the installation!
Elmer Melton is from the Noorvik Native Community in Noorvik, Alaska. We have worked with students from more than 20 different tribes but this is the first student we have hosted from Alaska. Elmer describes himself as “a miser in energy use” and has had experience with energy conservation programs in his community. He said he “would like to learn how to make hot water with renewable energy sources” so he can share this knowledge with his native community. With fuel costs being so high in his community, Elmer is eager to learn about clean, renewable energy alternatives.
The goal of the Solar Hot Water Heater Training was to install a solar hot water array that could be integrated into the radiant heating floor of the Sacred Earth Lodge. We used reclaimed panels from two homes in Boulder, Colorado. This new system will also serve as a hands-on demonstration site for future workshops. In addition to it’s educational value, the new system will provide the Sacred Earth Lodge with renewable heat from the sun, keeping our environmental impact and heating costs low.
The benefit of radiant heat is that even when the sun goes down the heat trapped throughout the day is released into the thermal mass of the concrete floor which then slowly releases heat well into the night. This new addition will drastically reduce the lodge’s consumption of traditional energy sources like wood and electric. With our students and some local Pine Ridge residents, we completed the five panel solar hot water array with no problems. Completion couldn’t have come at a better time as Pine Ridge is now seeing some of its coldest temperatures of the year. But as long as the sun keeps shining, the lodge will stay warm and comfy even on the coldest of days!