Indigenized Energy at Standing Rock: Solar to Support Tribal Programs
Indigenized Energy is a nonprofit company based in the District of Cannonball on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Our goal this year is to create a 300 kw solar system to sell power through a power purchase agreement (PPA) to the local electricity coop, Mor Gran Sou. Over time, we intend to grow the size of the system to 2.5 MW. Any surplus revenue generated by the company will be used to provide free electricity to tribal members (especially the elderly) and to fund social programs like youth services, Lakota language classes, and trainings for tribal members in how to use renewable energy technology. Our venture has been underway for over two years, and we are nearing launch time.
Standing Rock has 2.3 million acres of land and is the 5th largest reservation in the United States. It resides within one of the 5 poorest counties in America. Economic development is always a challenge at Standing Rock; to create and sustain locally-owned companies is a major challenge, and therefore Indigenized Energy hopes to set more than one example: how to run a successful business, and how to create a positive energy future in an era of runaway climate change.
The mission of Indigenized Energy is the pursuit of the following principles:
- Lead the way: In moving away from fossil fuels on Standing Rock and to provide clean energy to our membership on the reservation.
- Execute and Operate: Training programs and projects efficiently to empower our youth and communities on the reservation.
- Use our Cultural Values: Ways of life and the new technologies of today to build a better future for our people and for our future generations to come.
- Strengthen Our Sovereignty: As Dakota-Lakota people by protecting our environment, preserving our language, and improving the health and welfare of our communities.
- Become Self-Sustainable: To heal mother earth and keep our cultural identity strong.
Standing Rock had the attention of the world last year. We took a stand against big oil and pipelines, and we showed how peaceful and prayerful a movement can be. Standing Rock since that time has gained many allies who want to help us become more self-sustainable and create a better future for our membership. Our team believes in the principle “If you build it, they will come”—we believe Standing Rock has created a network of people around the world who have started to work together to create a better future. Our current goal is to connect with as many of these supporters as possible and to show them our vision for using today’s renewable energy technology, while maintaining our cultural identity, to create a platform for the future.
Where our project is located:Cannon Ball, ND, USA
The topic our project addresses:
What makes our project innovative:
Indigenized Energy’s plan is to create a solar farm on our reservation of Standing Rock, which itself will be an innovation. Solar technology is not new, of course, but we will be using it in a new way: as a response to the bullying that Standing Rock experienced at the hands of Energy Transfer Partners and the Trump Administration. We will model for all that oil and coal are energy sources of the past. Green tech is the future, and it better reflects our culture as Native people than reliance on fossil fuels.
How we use technology in our project:
Indigenized Energy’s project will bring a high tech, green method of electricity production to the reservation. In doing so, it will create an opportunity to teach the principles of renewable energy to our people. In addition to creating revenue that can be used for tribal programs, our solar installation will serve as a learning site: tribal members will be able to interact with our PV system and learn how solar power works.
Our project goals over the next 12 months:
Our goal over the next 12 months (Phase 1 of our project) is to install the 300kw solar farm and to start the basic programs that we are able to fund through our PPA for those in need. We will prioritize educating tribal members about renewable energy—with an eye to job creation, Lakota language classes, and other programs focused on youth. We will also move as quickly as possible toward providing free power to our most vulnerable community members, especially the elderly.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our project to affect the lives of more people:
Within the next 3-5 years we plan on expanding our solar farm to create more jobs and services through our PPA. We anticipate that during this period of time we will be able to offset all electricity for elders in our community of Cannonball and to provide professional training to tribal members for free. We plan to scale using the money generated from the solar farm. The more solar we generate the more we affect people’s lives at Standing Rock.
Highlights from our project:
Our project has received a great deal of attention, largely because we plan on putting our solar farm only 3 miles away from the most protested oil pipeline in history: the Dakota Access Pipeline. We were also awarded the Wallace Global Fund award for 2017.
The cities where we operate or plan to operate in the next 12 months. First city:Cannon Ball, ND, USA
How our project will be accessible and affordable to our community:
Our project will be accessible because its entire goal is to benefit the community of Standing Rock. As a nonprofit, we will sell power to the local electricity coop—and the proceeds will be used to offset need for local people. We will offer free daily site visits to the public and onsite trainings so people can learn how renewables work. We will help fund programs for language, youth programs, and electrical need for tribal members.
How many people we are currently serving with our project:
Currently we are serving no one. We will have the phase 1 build out in early summer 2018.
How many people we will be serving with our project in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
We expect to be serving 500+ within the first 12 months through Lakota language programs, youth services, and the offsetting of light bills within the community. Within 3 years we plan on serving 1,000+ people at Standing Rock using the same methods.
How our project team is organized:
How many people work on our project team:
How many years we have been working on our project:
Our revenue model:
Indigenous Energy’s revenue model is to use a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with our local coop, Mor Gran Sou, to generate dollars every year to cover operational costs and generate surpluses. Mor Gran Sou has already signaled a desire to buy power from us. The more solar power we generate, the more services and jobs we can create. The idea is to fundraise the first year’s budget and bank the revenue generated through the PPA for the first year so we can be forward-funded moving into the following year.
Why we are applying to Solve:
I am applying for the Oceti Sakowin fellowship because I recognize the prominent role MIT plays in the world of technology, and my project can only succeed if my team has the best possible advice. Our goal is to grow the scope of our project over time—and this growth will require excellent advising from technology experts. We will also need support designing our educational opportunities, both onsite and on the web.
The key barriers for our project:
We find ourselves at a remarkable moment in the development of energy technology: in the past five years solar power has become cheaper than fossil fuels, and that trend is deepening with each passing year. This is an ideal time to launch a solar power facility to compete with traditional energy sources. Furthermore, the NoDAPL movement has attracted millions of sympathetic eyes to Standing Rock. In sum, I don’t foresee major challenges for this project. There will be political and financial hurdles, but I’m confident we can meet them—especially with the aid of SOLVE’s academic and networking prowess.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Fellows:
- Cody Two Bears Executive Director , Indigenized Energy