Learning all about solar thermal with hands-on training

Solar thermal blooms on the White Earth Reservation through training and installation program

There are now ten new solar thermal units installed on White Earth tribal members’ homes on the reservation, providing indoor space heating from the sun.

“Our tribal community suffers from rampant fuel poverty and a high drain of our energy economy,” says Tom Ferrarell, project coordinator of the White Earth Solar Thermal Install and Training project. “One quarter of our tribal income is spent on energy, and since our community has the poorest county in the state of Minnesota, it is critical that we address this through two mechanisms—efficiency and local control over energy. This project integrates valuable green job skills for our tribal members and heating cost relief for our residents.”

With help from a NW CERT Seed Grant, Tom worked with local newspapers and KKWE Niijii Radio to recruit ten local residents’ homes and a cadre of trainees: Robin Davis, Melvin Mannypenny, Rob Moran, Jerry Libby, Lita Lynn Bevins, Eric Warren, and Justin Krit. They then partnered with Henry Red Cloud of Lakota Solar Enterprises from the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center in Pine Ridge South Dakota who brought the ten solar collectors and led the intensive training.

“One air heater directly reduces a household’s fossil fuel use, and can save a family 30% of their monthly heating cost for 20 years,” notes Ferrarell. “These are savings that can instead be spent within the community on other necessities.”

The White Earth Land Recovery Project now has hopes to do ten additional solar thermal installations each year. “The White Earth Ojibwe Reservation has huge un-actualized potential for renewable energy,” concludes Ferrarell. “Not only are we solar and wind rich, but our tribe has had training programs in renewables. We wish to actualize some of this potential in an integrated program focused on solar thermal and small scale wind.”

Warmth from the sun may soon be heating a lot more White Earth Reservation homes during our cold Minnesota winters!

See photos from the training and installation program:

Project Snapshot:

  • Location: White Earth Reservation, MN
  • Activity: Implementation, Education, Outreach
  • Technology: Solar Thermal Air Heat
  • Total Cost: $25,860
  • NW CERT Grant: $4,000
  • Estimated Energy Savings: Roughly 30% of each of the ten residents’ space heating needs (49,068,330 BTUs/yr total)
  • People Involved & Reached: 10,100

Want to learn how your community can get a CERTs Seed Grant to advance your work? Applications for the next round of grants are available and due October 26th. To get started, visit the Seed Grant page and see other awarded projects from past years.

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