Project Update: Solar Women Warriors Scholarship Fund

Gail and Jamie
Gail Hubbeling (left) and Jamie Folsom at the Compressed Earth Block training.

We are excited to report that the women who were awarded the Solar Women Warriors Scholarships have completed their training with us and have utilized these funds to learn important new skills in renewable energy and sustainable building.

We were delayed by weather in October of 2013, when the first Compressed Earth Block (CEB) Training was originally scheduled to take place. However, we were able to reschedule the training for May 18-24, 2014 and it ended up being a great success! Alison Goings, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, and Gail Hubbeling, a member of the Ihanktowan (Dakota) Tribe and also a veteran of the U.S. military, both attended the training on scholarships funded by Catapult.org. The women learned how to build a home using a compressed earth block machine, which produces blocks that are affordable and very energy efficient.

In addition to these two scholarships, we awarded a third Solar Women Warrior Scholarship to Robin Davis, a member of the White Earth Tribe. Robin attended one of our Solar Air Heater workshops held on the White Earth Reservation. After learning how to install solar heaters onto a home, Robin and the other trainees were employed by the White Earth Tribe to install 10 heaters for families in need. These heaters save families up to 30% on their monthly utility bills for 25 years, greatly decreasing household expenses using clean energy from the sun.

Get personal

“I’ve been interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy for sometime now. I want to share this knowledge with our Native communities along with the Housing Authority. Housing is the one shortage we need to overcome.” – Gail Hubbeling, Scholarship Recipient

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge with this project was the weather! We had no problem finding Native American women eager to attend our workshops; our main challenge was dealing with freak storms that delayed holding the workshops. We had originally planned to have the Compressed Earth Block training in October of 2014 but Mother Nature was not having it. A huge snow storm hit the Pine Ridge Reservation, causing us to postpone the workshop.

What we’ve learned

GRID Alternatives solar energy trainingWe’ve learned that beyond green job training, we need to also focus on helping trainees find meaningful employment opportunities, where they can utilize the skills they have gained. This is why we started the Green Business Development Program in 2013. This program helps Native entrepreneurs develop and implement viable green business plans within the reservation context, which is a much more challenging economic situation. In addition, we are also continuing to work closely with tribes, such as White Earth, to create jobs for trainees after they complete our workshops. Many tribes have access to Federal funds for renewable energy and economic development that can be used to employ their members in the green economy.

Next steps

We are now working with the women to offer more access to our workshops as well as an opportunity to apply to our Green Business Development Program. Our ultimate goal with this program is to see Native American women find jobs within the renewable energy and sustainable building sector, using the skills and experience gained from our workshops.

Native American Trainees Install 1 Megawatt Solar Garden in Colorado

by Lacey Gaechter, National Director
Lafayette Colorado solar garden
Using the knowledge and experience gained from their classes at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, three of our Native American trainees are currently employed by Bella Energy to install a 1 megawatt photovoltaic “Solar Garden” in the city of Lafayette, Colorado.

Recently, I went down to support our friends at Bella, see the job site for the first time, and touch base with our students, Landon, Kale, and Jeff. Well, the job site was impressive. A 1 megawatt solar array is huge! The project is called the Lafayette Solar Garden. Funded by Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community Program, owned by the City of Lafayette, and available for use by residents and business in the town (“subscribers”), this is a tremendous community resource.

Bella Energy, an exceptional Colorado solar company (whose CEO, Jim Welch, helped found TWP’s Tribal Renewable Energy Program in 2002) is charged with the installation of the million watts of the Lafayette Solar Garden and subcontracted Lakota Solar Enterprises to help. So it came to be that Kale Means, Landon Means, and Jeff King were given this ideal opportunity to put their green jobs skills to use.

The City of Lafayette and local businesses will utilize the majority of the electricity generated by this solar garden resulting in annual cost savings and the offset of 1,034 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of planting 27,883 trees and placing 213 zero-emission passenger vehicles on the road.

solar garden Lafayette ColoradoAll from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana, Jeff, Landon, and Kale have been chomping at the bit to start this gig and were excited to experience a new place – living in Erie, CO for the duration of the job. For my part, I was excited to see them after their fourth day on the job and see how things were going.

When I arrived, the guys were nowhere to be found. Jeff text me that they had to go to get haircuts. It was great to see the Bella folks and hear good things about the Lakota Solar Enterprises crew, but what the heck? I drove an hour to attend the dedication ceremony, and all Jeff, Kale, and Landon had to do was not leave. I called Jeff after the festivities were finished to find out what was so important about a haircut. Well, it turns out that it was Kale’s birthday and he wanted a haircut for his own celebration. Happy birthday Kale!

It’s so great to see our friends thriving in this new environment and on the job. Thanks to Bella and the City of Lafayette for this opportunity, and thanks to Landon, Kale, and Jeff for being such hard working, talented, and now well-manicured guys.

1 megawatt Solar Garden Colorado(Photos courtesy of Jon Becker, TWP Board President)

Photo of the Week: The Sacred Earth Lodge is open!

Sacred Earth Lodge

Thank you to everyone who joined us this past weekend for the Grand Opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge.  It was great to celebrate this important moment in the Tribal Renewable Energy Program’s history with all of our friends and family.

Sacred Earth Lodge is a one-of-a kind facility located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It is a beautiful and functional space available for rent to visitors, conferences, workshops, and as an affordable meeting location in the heart of Indian Country.

We offer hostel-style lodging with shared sleeping spaces, restrooms, and a community kitchen.

For information about visiting or renting the facility please contact John Motley at 970-484-3678 or email john@treeswaterpeople.org.

We hope you will visit soon!

Upcoming Training: Building with Compressed Earth Blocks

earth block building
Photo courtesy of EarthinBlock

Compressed Earth Blocks (CEB) are a sustainable construction option, using high pressure to create bricks from local soil and clay with only a tiny amount of cement. CEB eliminates the energy and pollution produced in the creation of bricks and cement blocks. In many areas CEB homes can replace wooden structures that are adding to the depletion of the world’s forests. Earth blocks are cheaper, greener and far more durable than concrete blocks or mud bricks. The stabilized blocks don’t melt in the rain so rebuilding isn’t necessary. 

Key components of this training include mixing ratios, the use of a compressed earth block machine to make bricks, and designing and constructing a naturally well-insulated and efficient earth block building.

earth block machine
The EarthinBlock machine is designed and manufactured in the U.S.A. by former NASA engineers. It weighs 2,000 pounds and can be towed. It can be easily moved around a building site or up the side of a mountain.

Hosted by Trees, Water & PeopleEarthinBlocks, and Lakota Solar Enterprises

Where: Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, Pine Ridge, South Dakota

When: October 18-26, 2013

Registration and scholarship applications are due October 1st!

You must complete a registration form or scholarship application to be considered for this training.

We are honored to be able to offer three scholarships to female students for this training.

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy Program

Photo of the Week: Native Students Bring Clean Energy to Pine Ridge

installing solar panels

About this photo

Our Tribal Renewable Energy Program brings Native American students together to learn about clean energy technologies such as solar electric and wind. At a training co-hosted by Trees, Water & People and the National Wildlife Federation’s Tribal Lands Program, students from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe learned how to install a grid-tied solar PV system at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

To learn more about our efforts to bring clean energy and green jobs to Native American tribes please visit our website.

(photo by Alexis Bonogofsky)

Save the Date! Grand Opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge: Oct. 11, 2013

Sacred Earth Lodge

You are invited to the Grand Opening celebration of the Sacred Earth Lodge on October 11, 2013 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota! After a year and a half of planning, construction, volunteer trips, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we are excited to open our new training building to the public.

October 11, 2013, 2:00pm – 8:00pm

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
Pine Ridge, South Dakota
 
Stick around for cultural activities!
October 12, 2013, 9:00am – 12:00pm
Sacred Earth Lodge
Click to enlarge

The Sacred Earth Lodge is the newest edition to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) campus, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and headquarters for our Tribal Renewable Energy Program. This new building will be used as a training center and dormitory for our ever-expanding Tribal Program. With such huge demand for our workshops, we are excited to add more and better classroom space, facilities and many more beds to RCREC.

For more information please contact Lacey Gaechter, National Director, at lacey@treeswaterpeople.org or by phone at (877)606-4TWP.

Name Selected for New Building at RCREC!

sacred earth lodge

Thank you to everyone who submitted name ideas for TWP’s new building at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC)! The new building will be called Sacred Earth Lodge. This name reflects the importance of culture, community, knowledge sharing, and Mother Earth. Stay tuned for updates as we finish the building and open it up to trainees. Was-te!

Trees, Water & People Renewable Energy Program