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SEI Provides Native American Training at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

Posted by: chris
May 20, 2013

SEI recently completed a 4-day training and installation class in collaboration with Lakota Solar Enterprise and Trees, Water & People.  This 4-day training, held in late March, was hosted at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge, SD.  The Northern Cheyenne tribe sent a bright group of young leaders from their community to this training as part a larger effort to explore sustainable economic solutions to replace fossil fuel development on their lands.  

In addition to this aspect, the National Wildlife Federation, who has been integral in supporting the Northern Cheyenne in their efforts to stop the Otter Creek coal mine, was able to get this training event included in a feature film being made by Avi Lewis regarding global climate change effects on indigenous people around the world and the potential solutions being explored.  


The film crew gets up close coverage of participants building the rack and mounting PV modules.   

In collaboration with Lakota Solar Enterprise, SEI conducted a two day grid-tie solar electric class along with a two day installation of a ground mounted 1.4kW grid-tie system.  The newly installed system will help offset electrical loads for the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, which has now trained 160 folks from various Native American nations from around the country.  In addition to hosting workshops like this on solar electric systems, Lakota Solar Enterprise also conducts workshops on other appropriate renewable energy technologies.  Here is an excerpt from their website explaining more about what they do:

Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, is one of the nation's first 100% Native American owned and operated renewable energy companies. LSE is headed by Henry Red Cloud, a respected Lakota elder and a fifth-generation descendent of Chief Red Cloud, the last Lakota war chief. Lakota Solar offers a wide range of services that span from fabricating physical materials to supporting crucial humanitarian efforts.

In addition to manufacturing solar air collectors and complete supplemental solar heating systems, LSE provides employment and green job training for Native Americans. By training the younger generations, we are passing on skills to future Solar Warriors. We provide affordable and sustainable heat sources to families living at life-or-death poverty rates, consequently reducing the dependency on polluting and destructive sources of energy, with a goal of helping this nation's First Peoples become energy independent.


Henry Red Cloud instructing a few “solar warriors” during the PV array installation.

During the week of training, students were able to tour existing grid-tie and off-grid systems at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in order to gain a better understanding of the PV system options available and the equipment entailed in each application.  The classroom portion of the training also included a few small lab exercises to reinforce fundamental solar concepts such as the effects of tilt angle, orientation, and shading on the output of a PV module.  Participants also learned how to use a solar pathfinder tool for shade analysis.  

The last two days of the training were focused on installing a new 1.4kW grid-tie system at the training facility.  During this installation students were able to work on all aspects of the project, including building the rack structure, mounting and wiring modules, running conduit, pulling wire, mounting and wiring the inverter and disconnects, as well as performing testing and commissioning procedures for system start-up.  The highlight of the week was seeing the excitement of the students when they commissioned the system, which also made good footage for the film crew.  


Class participants inspect the wiring at the inverter and disconnect switches.  

The success of this project would not have been possible without the amazing volunteers that generously dedicated their time, effort and hard work often from early morning until well past dark.  SEI would like to offer a special thanks to our volunteer crew:  Joe Villacci, Johnny Weiss, Alex Weiss, and Zach Weiss.  This project would not have been possible with you guys!  


Finished array for the 1.4kW grid-tie system connected to the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center.   

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