Tribal Renewable Energy
Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
Trees, Water & People and our partner, Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), established the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC) on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where tribes from around the country receive hands-on training in renewable energy applications from fellow Native Americans. Visiting tribal members learn how to assemble and install solar heating systems, as well as strategies to help them establish successful installation programs in their own communities. More than 175 trainees from tribes around the country have received training through RCREC.
Using renewable energy fits well with Native philosophies of caring for the earth and protecting the environment for future generations. Especially for Native communities in the American west, abundant sunlight and wind resources offer huge potential for clean energy. In the Great Plains alone, an estimated wind resource of over 500 billion kilowatt hours a year could be harvested—about 14% of the United States' total electricity production.
Since 2009, RCREC has been powered by solar electricity – produced by a 2 kW photovoltaic array donated by Namaste Solar in Boulder, Colorado. Namaste staff helped install the system, as part of an interactive workshop on solar electricity attended by local residents and members of the neighboring Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Besides providing sustainable power for the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, the array will serve as a teaching tool for future trainings in solar electricity. Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center facilities also include demonstration solar heaters, a straw bale home demonstration site, a wind turbine, greenhouses, a garden, and wind-break and shade trees. As RCREC expands its expertise, training sessions on a wide range of applications such as solar electric photovoltaic systems, sustainable building techniques, and organic gardening will be added.
In addition to demonstrating the benefits of renewable energy, RCREC’s training is creating green jobs for residents of Pine Ridge and trainees from other tribes. As tribal leaders learn how to incorporate sustainable technology into their housing, employment training, and energy strategies, the impact will increase exponentially. By harnessing renewable energy, we can significantly improve the lives of Native Americans living on reservations across the United States.
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