One of Northern Minnesota’s largest solar projects continues this fall with the second of 12 planned commercial-scale installations.
In February 2016, Red Lake Tribal leaders announced plans to begin a solar project capable of powering every casino and government building, in addition to the Red Lake Nation College campus in Northern Minnesota. The savings from solar will save the tribe’s commercial fishery from irreparable damage, as they monitor the slow increase of mercury levels in local lakes, from coal-burning power plants 1,000 miles to the west.
When corporate financing fell through, Ralph Jacobson of Impact Power Solutions worked with Tribal leaders to create an alternative financing plan by leveraging crowdfunding. Bob Blake of Solar Bear assembled a crew of Tribal members to install the first solar array on the Red Lake Government Center in 2018. Building on that success, fundraising for the Oshkiimaajitahdah (workforce development center) solar array was completed in June. In September 2020, Solar Bear began construction on the project. At 240 kW, it’s one of the largest solar projects in Northern Minnesota. Additionally, the solar array will provide job training, employment opportunities, and help alleviate other issues faced by the tribe.
With campus construction wrapping up soon, the next phase of the Red Lake Solar Project — installing solar on four schools in the town of Ponemah — is set to begin in 2021.
“My vision is that The Red Lake Nation ends up as an owner of all these solar + storage power systems on their building fleet. As the owner, they are going to have a tremendous asset,” said Ralph Jacobson, Chief Justice, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for Impact Power Solutions. “This is a resource that other communities are going to need, so it moves the community into a leadership role in moving away from coal in northern Minnesota.”
“My hope, my dream for Red Lake is for this to be a model for other tribes to follow,” said Bob Blake, owner of Solar Bear and Executive Director of Native Sun Community Power Development. “What’s really exciting about all this is that our people can go ahead and get the knowledge around this technology and be a part of this new renewable energy green deal that’s going to be happening. I feel like renewable energy is going to be this driver of change and prosperity in ways that tribal nations have never seen before. When you give people purpose, when you give people the ability to get up and do something that they love every day, I think that’s how you battle alcoholism, I think that’s how you battle a drug addiction, I think that’s how you battle missing murdered indigenous women.”
See more on the project here: https://www.cleanenergyeconomymn.org/success-stories/red-lake-solar-project
News item from IPS