Pine Ridge Solar Installations
Bringing quality, affordable solar installation to the Pine Ridge Reservation.
1) Pine Ridge has plenty of wí (sun), and a spread-out population of folks paying high electric bills (or with no electricity at all).
People want to use wí power but the actual process is difficult. I'm a good example. I'm an experienced contractor, have built homes all over the reservation and teach carpentry and construction at Oglala Lakota College. Recently I have helped with small solar installations, saving homeowners a lot of money. Larger scale solar installations are the next step in that process, but to do that right I need more training and equipment. All of this will help us achieve real energy sovereignty for the Očeti Sakowín.
2) I'm starting to build a house for a customer who is ready for a fully off-the-grid solar project (he told me about the Fellowship and his friend Dana and her husband Lindsay, who works in renewable energy, have been helping me learn more about solar and fill out this application), once I have the necessary training and equipment. More customers are ready once the first project is successfully completed. I'm proposing using the fellowship money to a) pursue and complete NABCEP training for solar installation, b) purchase the necessary equipment for safe, reliable installations, and c) familiarize myself with all available tax and funding options, so I can help customers keep the upfront cost of solar projects down.
The biggest obstacle to solar adoption on Pine Ridge is the cost, the complexity, and finding the right people to explain and run the project. I'd like to become a go-to source for both this information, and for the contracting skills needed to actually do the installations (and related energy efficiency projects). This Fellowship would help me acquire the necessary skills and equipment to do that. I already have at least one customer on the reservation ready to install solar once I'm certified. A second should be signing the papers soon, and I expect many more customers to come after that.
3) If I can achieve these results for myself and save real money for my customers, then the process can be taught and repeated, just as I do in the classes I teach at the Tribal college. With the mentors I hope to meet and things I hope to learn through the fellowship meetings at MIT and Standing Rock, I can help grow the solar options for people on the reservation, and bring more energy sovereignty and cost savings to the Očeti Sakowín. This is maybe a different kind of application from what you're seeing. I'm an individual, not an organization. I run a business, not a nonprofit. But I know the local hurdles to projects like these, and how to help people achieve their own energy sovereignty from the bottom up.
Where our project is located:Manderson-White Horse Creek, SD, USA
The topic our project addresses:
What makes our project innovative:
This is a new application of an existing technology, and a new and improved process for helping homeowners bring solar energy to their own homes. The technology will be new to the location, which has seen limited solar installs.
How we use technology in our project:
The project will teach me how and give me access to the best equipment in order to:
1) Install the most advanced and cost effective solar panels for home use.
2) Ensure the panels are installed for long-term reliability, and "pointed" correctly to maximize sun exposure.
3) Ensure all connections are as reliable and efficient as possible.
4) Use the most energy efficient lighting, appliances, etc. to maximize the energy we can harness.
Our project goals over the next 12 months:
1) Acquire the necessary training, certification, and equipment.
2) Do at least 2-3 successful solar installations as cost effectively as possible.
3) Teach my students and get them the necessary certifications to do solar installations of their own.
4) Show by example how solar energy can be harnessed, and how cost savings and energy sovereignty can be achieved.
5) Offer these services to homeowners on the reservations and to institutions (schools, hospital, tribal government, etc.).
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our project to affect the lives of more people:
I think that good projects start small, so to guarantee quality and success I'll start out doing my own projects and helping my students do their own. From there, though, I want create repeatable projects for more installers and customers to run their own solar energy projects and achieve their own energy sovereignty.
Highlights from our project:
I've never gotten any publicity for my work, but I have a long line of satisfied customers with my general contracting work, which I've been doing for more than twnety years. I also work as an instructor at the tribal college teaching students how to build quality, affordable homes and commercial buildings--all of whch we need far more of here on Pine Ridge.
In particular, my recent energy efficiency and small scale solar projects have been very successful and I'm looking to build on those successes and learn the skills needed to reach the next level.
The cities where we operate or plan to operate in the next 12 months. First city:Pine Ridge, SD, USA
Second city:Pine Ridge, SD, USA
How our project will be accessible and affordable to our community:
Accesibility and affordability are the keys to this project. By using the fellowship to acquire the right certifications, training, and knowledge, I can offer those best practices to my customers here on Pine Ridge--I don't know of anyone else offering them here right now. There is also a great opportunity to educate community members about the project and skills needed to deploy a project of their own.
And the financial skills help from the Fellowship will let me offer those skills and practices to my customers at the lowest possible price.
How many people we are currently serving with our project:
My customers are rural homeowners who pay too much for electricity. My project will give them access to quality, affordable solar installations, bringing down their energy costs, cutting reliance on fossil fuels, and helping folks achieve energy sovereignty.
How many people we will be serving with our project in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
I expect to be serving 2-3 homeowners and businesses within a year. By training my students and helping them get certified, I hope that within 3 years we can complete a few dozen projects. If it's all homeowners, that would mean maybe 100 or so people served. If we can expand to businesses and perhaps tribal buildings, that will mean hundreds of people served (not to mention that cutting fossil fuel use helps everyone on the planet).
How our project team is organized:Not Registered as Any Organization
Explaining our organization:
For profit business but not registered as an LLC, etc.
How many people work on our project team:3
How many years we have been working on our project:Less than 1 year
Our revenue model:
The model is pretty simple: customers pay me to build houses, and I only incur costs when I'm buying the materials and doing the building (which is done at a profit, so I'm not going into debt at all). By helping pay for solar install training, I'll be able to maintain that business model of not incurring debt.
Why we are applying to Solve:
I'm applying to Solve to help me build out the solar installations knowledge and abilities here on the reservation. Solve's resources, trainings and meetings at MIT and Standing Rock will also help me grow the solar installation business, both for myself and for my students, and of course for our customers.
Successfully doing this will provide a model for similar projects throughout Lakota Country and on other reservations and rural areas facing similar challenges.
The key barriers for our project:
1. Limited resources for NABCEP training for myself and a staff of skilled installers. Solve can help overcome this hurdle through through partnerships and educational resources.
2. Limited resources for obtaining the proper equipment for installation - for safe and reliable installations. Solve can help by providing direction or in-kind funding partnerships for obtaining and operating the equipment.
3. Limited Access to information- Public awareness for community to understand the benefits of achieving energy sovereignty. Solve can help with community engagement methods. I think the MIT network of faculty, staff and students would have some great ideas for this.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Fellows: