Notes from the Field: Summer Update from Tribal Lands

Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE) and Trees, Water & People (TWP) are continuing our efforts to help Native American communities move towards energy independence. This week we are conducting a solar air heater workshop and installing ten solar air heating systems for the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe in northeast South Dakota. The training is teaching twelve tribal members about the uses of solar energy and how to install the energy saving solar heating systems. These solar heaters push the number of total systems the LSE/TWP team has built and installed for tribal families to more than 1,000 systems. Additionally, the vast majority of these systems made at the LSE manufacturing facility at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe members installing a solar air heater during a training with Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People.


It is also the first major installation of our new Off-Grid Solar Heaters, which now operate solely on solar power! Heat is provided even if the grid goes off, as it is apt to do all across Native American Reservations. After this training is completed, the tribe has discussed getting 21 more systems and will use their trained workforce to get them installed.

Next, LSE will be taking down the old defunct wind turbine tower at the Kili Radio Station on Pine Ridge. Friends will install a new 10 kW Bergey wind turbine there in September, and a bit later Henry and the LSE crew will install another 6 kW solar electric array. A few years ago LSE installed a 5 kW solar electric array there, as well as one of their solar air heaters. Together, this should reduce the Radio stationed huge electric and heating bills by more than half.

IMG_0550 - Copy
Henry Red Cloud (left) leads a solar panel installation training at the Kili Radio Station in 2013.

Training and demonstrations like these are possible because of you, our supporters! Your contribution helps build job skills for Native Americans while also reducing CO2 emissions. Please donate today to keep programs like these going into the future.

donate button

New Solar Furnace Design 100% Off Grid

off grid solar furnace

by John Motley, Assistant National Director

In 2003, Trees Water & People (TWP) partnered with Colorado State University to design a solar air heating system that could be manufactured entirely by our tribal partner Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), a 100% Native-owned and operated company located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  Over these 12 years, TWP and LSE have built and distributed over 900 solar air furnaces, saving Native American families over $6.4 million in heating bills. This year, we are looking to make this system even more affordable, while at the same time taking it completely off the grid.

Over the winter, we invested in research and development of this new system. There were a few hurdles to overcome before we could make this a reality. First, we needed the system to function entirely on direct current (DC), as this is the type of electricity that Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels produce.   Second, we needed to move a comparable amount of air through the system so that we could maintain the same thermal efficiency as our previous system. And finally, we had to achieve all of this while using far less energy, as we would be working with a 35W solar panel as opposed to drawing from the home’s electricity.

To meet these challenges, we worked from two angles. One was using a new direct current (DC) that would power not only the fan but also the thermostat and shutoff mechanisms. Second, we redesigned the duct work to streamline the air flow, lessening the drag and back pressure caused by the serpentine ducting necessary with the old fan’s system. Last, we changed the design of the stand for the panel, as it was no longer necessary to house the cumbersome old fan and its duct work.

Woman and Solar Heater (Dan Bihn)
TWP and LSE have built and installed over 900 solar furnaces for Native American families living on tribal lands.

With the help of a knowledgeable board member with a background in computer cooling systems, we found a DC fan that could move as much air through the Solar Air Furnace as the previous model. This allowed us to begin designing a off grid system that would provide its own energy to bring heat into the home.  By simplifying the ducting, we were able to bring down the overall cost of the system, while improving airflow. We can now insure that this new heating system will be far more efficient and will save the user even more money on their overall energy needs.

Trees Water & People, in collaboration with our partner Lakota Solar Enterprises, is looking forward to implementing this design in all new systems this summer. Our first off grid furnace will be installed in mid-April. Stay tuned for updates!

For questions or to learn more about TWP’s solar furnaces please contact John Motley at

Tribal Renewable Energy Program

Notes from the Field: Solar Heater Workshop at White Earth Trains New Group of Solar Warriors

We recently partnered with Honor the Earth, Lakota Solar Enterprises, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERT), Ojibwe Wind, and the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) to conduct a Solar Air Heating workshop at the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

During the 5-day course, students learned how to assemble kits for solar air heaters and participated in hands-on solar air heater installations on White Earth Reservation homes. After the training, the White Earth Tribe will hire these new “Solar Warriors” to install ten solar heaters on the homes of tribal members.

Henry Red Cloud, the lead instructor for the training and owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, shared his view of solar energy with the students: “It’s like a rebuilding of a nation. Taking our old way and then taking this new way. We gotta step forward all the time.”

At the end of the training, one student commented, “I really thank you guys for having Henry come and teach White Earth Members like me and my daughter and my son-in-law. This new trade that is coming, I’m so glad that it is here.”

To learn more about the workshops offered by Trees, Water & People’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program click here.


Upcoming Training: Solar Hot Water Systems

January 26-February 1, 2014

(Register by January 17)

solar hot water

Solar hot water systems use the sun’s energy to provide hot water for the household taps or for household heating. During this course, students will learn about solar hot water systems in general and gain hands-on experience installing solar hot water panels for an in-floor (radiant) heating system.
Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, SD

Who: Students from tribes throughout the country will join Lakota Solar Enterprises and Trees, Water & People for this hands-on training.

You must complete a Registration and Payment Form to be considered for this training.

When: January 26-February 1, 2014

Apply Now!
Registration and Payment Form due January 17, 2014

For more information, and to download a Payment and Registration Form, visit or call Lacey Gaechter at 970-484-3678 or email

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy Program Red Lettering (250)

Double your impact on #GivingTuesday!


Supporting women and girls can be twice as impactful this giving season! Tomorrow, December 3rd, is #GivingTuesday. Join the global movement to giveback! You can double your impact to our project on thanks to a matching contribution from Johnson & Johnson #CareGrows.

Every donation made to our Solar Heaters for Native American Mothers project will be doubled! Our life-changing solar air heaters greatly reduce monthly utility bills and generate heat straight from the sun, helping to keep families warm during the cold winter months. What better way to give back this giving season then with the gift of heat?



What is a Solar Heater?

solar air heater


Trees, Water & People’s supplemental solar air heating units are an inexpensive, simple to use, and environmentally sound way to bring comfort to reservation families suffering in the winter cold. The units are built on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation by Native-owned and operated Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), providing a source of employment, economic activity, and pride.

The heaters themselves are technologically straightforward. The main component of each unit is a 4×8 foot solar collector panel. The panel contains baffles to direct air flow and is backed by a specialized, heat-absorbing metal film. The baffles and absorber plate are covered by a sheet of special solar glass and surrounded by a metal frame. This solar panel is mounted and installed next to the south side of the house, where it absorbs heat from the sun. The system is connected to the house by two air ducts: supply and return. Whenever the air inside the collector panel is warmer than the temperature set on the heating system’s thermostat, a blower inside the system turns on and warm air is pushed into the house.

Learn more about solar heaters at our website!

Notes from the Field: Solar Trainees Bring Renewables to KILI Radio

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A wonderful group of students came out for last week’s Solar Electric Training at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We had two repeat trainees, both of whom are in the process of starting their own renewable energy business: Leo White Bear, owner of Off the Grid, and Kale Means, budding proprietor of Indigenous Renewable Energy.

Since Leo Bear left his internship with Lakota Solar Enterprises, I have missed him so much, and it was great to visit with him again and to hear that he is doing so well back home in Idaho. Leo says of this course, “It will have a big impact for my renewable energy business!”

This course represents the Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s first “Trainer in Residence” project, featuring guest instructor Jeff Tobe of Solar Energy International. Thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy, Jeff was able to spend one week at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center co-hosting this training with Henry Red Cloud. Solar Energy International’s ultimate objective was actually to propagate skilled instructors for future solar electric courses, so this was a training for the trainer (Henry Red Cloud) as well.

Thanks to Trees, Water & People’s donors, including a very generous grant from the Arntz Family Foundation, we were also able to offer this training opportunity to seven students from the Shoshone Bannock, Oglala Lakota, Cheyenne River Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne tribes. The 2 kilowatt photovoltaic array was donated by Namasté Solar, which allowed us to offer scholarships to all seven students. In addition, we are also happy to contribute free, clean electricity to the KILI Radio Station in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. KILI is “the Voice of the Lakota Nation,” and is listened to online by tribal people throughout the contiguous United States and Alaska.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this training a success!

Native American trainees from 4 different tribes joined us for a Solar Electric Training, hosted at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in South Dakota.

Henry Red Cloud Finalist in American Dream Photo Contest

American Dream Photo Contest_Henry red CloudHelp our partner Henry Red Cloud, owner of Lakota Solar Enterprises, win the American Dream Photo Contest!

This summer, CFED asked Americans what they’re saving for by challenging them to send in their savings stories and photographs as part of the American Dream Photo Challenge. Over 60 entries from contestants all over the country were received. Henry is a top finalist and needs your help to win!

Let CFED know Henry’s photo is your favorite by tweeting the following message: “We love Henry Red Cloud’s photo! #ALC2012 #Savingsphoto”

Henry’s essay for the American Dream Photo Challenge:

“We are Lakota Solar Enterprises, a Tribal Renewable Energy company! Our van’s transmission is in need of repairs. We rely on our van to carry out our projects, bringing solar air heaters to Native American families in need. The functionality of our van is vital to our work. $500 will be a huge help for us to safely transport systems to homes! Our solar heaters provide affordable heat sources to families living at life-or-death poverty rates, and help to reduce the dependency on polluting and destructive sources of energy. Make a difference; choose Lakota Solar Enterprises!”

Learn more at

Notes from the Field: Solar Heating Arrives to the Navajo Nation

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director

solar air heater Navajo
Eva Stokely inspects her new solar air heater outside her home in Shiprock, NM.
Eva and Lacey outside the school named for Mrs. Stokely.

Last week I traveled with Henry Red Cloud – our Tribal Renewable Energy Program partner – to Shiprock, New Mexico, for Trees, Water & People’s (TWP) first ever project with the Navajo (Diné) Nation. TWP donated and installed a solar air heating system on Eva and Pete Stokely’s home, two retired Diné teachers, home. It turns out that Eva and Pete were the first Navajo teachers hired in the Shiprock district of the reservation. It was really an honor to meet people who played such an important role in that turning point in history – when education returned to the Diné people. Eva actually ended up becoming a school principal and was eventually honored by having a school named after her – Eva B. Stokely Elementary School. While I was sitting with her at her kitchen table, hearing a little bit about her background, she surprised me by offering a tour of the local schools. “I like to show them off.” She explained. And so it was that I had the opportunity, along with my amazing trip photographer and intern, Christy Proulx, to see not only Eva B. Stokely Elementary, but also Shiprock Associated Schools, for which Eva now serves as a board member. Something to be proud of indeed; both of these schools offer hope for the next generation!

To many people, Eva serves as a community leader, and we are very excited to have a solar air heater saving her $20-$60 a month on her heating bills, not to mention reducing her fossil fuel use by 20-30%! With Eva to spread the word, we look forward to bringing many more heaters to the Diné people. To learn more about TWP’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program click here.

YES! Magazine Honors Henry Red Cloud—One of the “YES! Breakthrough 15″

Henry Red Cloud
Henry Red Cloud- One of YES! Magazine's "Breakthrough 15"
Henry Red Cloud, TWP’s Tribal Program partner and founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises, has been named one of the “YES! Breakthrough 15”—a group of people who are “tuned in to the deepest needs of our time,” says YES! Magazine executive editor Sarah van Gelder. YES! asked heroes from the grassroots—such as Pete Seeger, Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry, and Eve Ensler—to name 15 people whose work is creating the most important solutions and transforming the way we live.

YES! recognizes Red Cloud’s leadership in bringing renewable energy, sustainable development, and cultural renewal to some of the lowest-income communities in the nation, on reservations.

“Tribes are under intense pressure to allow their lands to be punctured by fossil fuel development. Red Cloud is showing that there is another path out of poverty,” says award-winning journalist Naomi Klein, who selected Red Cloud for the issue.

The newly released winter issue of YES! Magazine marks the publication’s 15th anniversary as an ad-free, independent magazine. To read the full article please visit

Congrats to Henry! We are honored to work with such an inspirational, forward-thinking person. Was-te!