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.

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Mobile Power Station Workshop: Creating Energy Independence for Native American Communities

by Art Rave, Mobile Power Station Workshop participant 

I recently attended a mobile solar workshop at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center. The amount of information and the training I received at the center was wholeheartedly impressive. During the first few hours of the workshop, I started to learn the basics of solar energy and how solar energy systems work. Within the first few days of hands on training, I began to truly understand how the solar power energy systems operate. On last day of the workshop, I was ready to take all that I learned back to my community on the Cheyenne River Reservation and begin promoting the absolute necessity of solar energy.

Art Rave at Mobile Power Station workshop
Art Rave (left) receives hands-on wiring instruction by instructor Jason (right) of Remote Energy. Photo by Dave Bowden.

As a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, I understand first hand exactly what energy independence can mean to a struggling community. The vast diversity of organizations that partner with RCREC is a testament to the hard work and indomitable spirit of those at the center and the allies supporting it. Everyone was absolutely dedicated to the environment and sustainable energy. I was fortunate enough to have time to meet some awe-inspiring and dedicated individuals from Trees, Water & People. Their dedication to the environment is reflected by the hard work, devotion, and enthusiasm apparent in each of their employees. The solar energy instructors are an amazing group of educators with years of experience in the field. The passion they showed in helping our Native American communities is inspiring to all!

Carol and Art at Mobile Power Station Workshop
Instructor Carol (bottom center) teaches Art (front right) and the other workshop participants to read the labels on the back of a solar panel in order to connect it to the correct electrical system.

The solar energy instructors are an amazing group of educators with years of experience in the field. The passion they showed in helping our Native American communities is inspiring to all! Overall, what a great place to learn and share! The food, lodging, and staff were terrific! I cannot wait to attend another workshop with Henry and his amazing group of partners in renewable and sustainable energy!

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

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Go Solar and Support TWP!

solar heater southern ute reservation
When you go solar with SolarCity you will also help Native American families heat their homes with solar energy!

Trees, Water & People (TWP) and Benny Mosiman, an Energy Consultant with SolarCity (and a former intern at TWP), are combining forces to help homeowners lower their electricity costs with solar and help fund the Solar Energy and Tribal Renewable Energy Programs.  When you purchase a system through Benny and you mention Trees, Water & People, a $300 donation will be made to help fund these important programs.

The choice to get your electricity from the sun will not only benefit our environment and your wallet but will also help families in Central America and on Native American Reservations all across this country get their power from clean, renewable resources.

SolarCity installs solar systems with no up-front costs and sells the electricity back to the homeowner at a rate comparable to what you pay for electricity now, often times for a lower cost!  If you would like to set up a free site visit or just want to chat about your options for solar and see if it is a right fit for you please contact Benny at 720-387-5482 or bmosiman@solarcity.com. Don’t forget to mentions Trees, Water & People!

solarcity logo

Photo of the Week: Lighting Up Rural Peru

 

In partnership with PowerMundo, we are working to light up homes throughout Peru with “cleantech” solar products that provide rural families with safe, clean, and inexpensive energy. (Photo: PowerMundo 2012)

Learn more about our work with PowerMundo at our website!

Report from the Colorado Renewable Energy Conference

As I work on the SunMobile’s renewable energy and energy efficiency curriculum, I have found many great opportunities to learn more from leading experts in the field. Most recently, I attended the annual Colorado Renewable Energy Conference which was in held Pueblo, Colorado June 6-8 and put on by the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. I went to many break-out sessions that ranged from the latest in wind and solar energy to how such systems are financed and how vehicle technology is keeping up with the current fuel efficiency needs (or not!). I also attended two all day workshops — the first focused on teaching about energy, and the second dealt with emerging renewable energy technologies. The entire weekend was really a great way to touch bases with the many people I have worked with in the past and for meeting new people who share similar interests and goals for renewable energy, and letting them know about our environmental education programs.

Elizabeth