Volunteer Voices: Sustainable Energy on Native Lands

by Kirstin Moore, TWP Development Intern

It’s saddening to witness America’s Native people living in such poor, inadequate conditions. The Lakota were forced to migrate to the Pine Ridge Reservation, and after decades of oppression many of them are now unemployed, suffering from malnutrition, and unable to meet their basic needs. Some people living on the reservation have little to no access to the electrical grid. For others, electricity is available but the cost of the utility is impractical.

Upon arrival to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), you are immediately welcomed by a huge mural with the words Hau Kola painted in large letters, which translates to “Greetings Friends.” It is a place where like-minded people who share a similar vision are able to connect. It all began with what Henry Red Cloud calls a “hot-air collector.” He was building his own when his curiosity led him to form a natural relationship with Trees, Water & People (TWP).

Photo by Kirstin Moore

Thanks to the supporters of TWP, a week-long workshop was held to educate Native Americans on how to build and maintain off-grid solar systems. What would have been a thousand-dollar training session was free for those interested in participating. People came from on and off the reservations, including Standing Rock, with the intention of spreading the word of harvesting sunlight as an energy source and job creator.

Professionals from Solar Energy International (SEI) taught us how to generate electricity through the simple task of monitoring the sun. Our team developed off-grid, 12 volt solar light buckets and a small 48 volt trailer with the ability to power lights, computers, pumps, and tools. The most amazing aspect of the training was that no matter your skill level, you were able to gain an understanding of what solar power can do and how the systems operate.

Cedric Goodhouse of the Standing Rock Tribe and Lawrence Richards of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation connect wiring on a donated Magnum inverter.  Photo by Dave Bowden

For example, I learned that the PV panel converts solar energy into electrical energy; the charge controller regulates the amount of charge going in/out of the battery, and the inverter changes DC current to AC current and vice versa. Within a week, I had advanced from stripping wires to wiring components.

One merely has to look around, read some news, and watch a little television to understand there is a dire need for sources of clean energy. This innovative technology is affordable and can be applied as a method to reduce energy consumption from the grid and encourage self-sufficiency through renewable energy.

To learn more about the events and workshops of Trees, Water & People, or how to get involved, please sign up for our monthly newsletter.

sign-up-here

TWP’s Regional Coordinator Graduates from Academia de Profesionales Solares de las AmĂ©ricas

SEI workshop

Benjamin Osorto, TWP’s Regional Coordinator in Central America, recently completed the Academia de Profesionales Solares de las AmĂ©ricas (APSA) program, where he was part of the first graduating class. Congrats Benjamin! 

This innovative program, designed and managed by Solar Energy International with support from the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, teaches Latin American students how to design, install and maintain solar PV systems and to successfully launch and administer businesses in this critically important industry.

Matthew Harris, Director of Academia de Profesionales Solares de las AmĂ©ricas, wrote, “A new chapter has begun in the Americas and after graduating this first group of people in to the APSA program I am humbled to know that the world is blessed with 50 champions linked by a strong passion to do good for their countries and the world.” 

To learn more about this program please visit the Solar Energy International Website.

SEI APSA

Notes from the Field: Solar PV Training Brings More Renewable Energy to Pine Ridge

by Claire Burnett, National Program Assistant

solar PV training at Pine Ridge

Our new solar electric array at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center is now installed! Trainees from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe recently joined local Lakota trainees for three days of in-class instruction at our Solar Electric Training, followed by a hands-on installation, learning the ins and outs of solar electric design and installation.

Jeff Tobe with Solar Energy International (SEI) joined us for a second time as a guest instructor, and we received generous equipment donations from SEI, Advanced Energy, and Bella Energy. The install is an addition to our existing solar array, and a precursor to a larger array that will be installed on our new Red Cloud Training Annex early  this summer.

In addition, the training follows a historical coal mine protest on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation that we attended with our fellow trainees and friends, and we had a film crew on site for a documentary focusing on clean sources of energy on tribal lands.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in this training – what a success!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.