Grand Portage

Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa explores clean energy options

October 2023

The village of Grand Portage is located near the Canadian border along the northern shore of Gichigami (Lake Superior). The Grand Portage Anishinaabe are strong and resilient. We call this place home; we are still here.

- Grand Portage Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa

Grand Portage Chippewa logo. Blue circle containing red images of a deer, arrow, turtle and stick. Surrounded by a green circle with white text reading "Grand Portage Chippewa"

The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (pop. 621) were awarded two Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Seed Grants in 2021. The first was a rather straightforward LED lighting project in a high traffic community building. The second, a solar feasibility study, inspired by ideas of grid reliability and energy sovereignty. Both projects were led by community members and laid out the possibility for future paths in clean energy.

Log Building LED Project

Krishna Woerheide, the Environmental Specialist with Grand Portage, coordinated the effort across different departments to upgrade the lights in the community building. “Members of the community gather there throughout the year for classes, social events, and meetings. It is used for the sustainable foods initiative and Alzheimers awareness,” says Woerheide. She added that the CERTs Seed Grant application and reporting were user friendly. She also noted that the project has led to looking at retrofitting additional buildings with energy efficiency measures and potentially solar.

Sign up for our newsletter

Could Solar be an answer?

Grand Portage used a CERTs Seed Grant to help fund a solar feasibility study. Which Tribally-owned buildings were solar ready? Should each building have its own solar array, or should there be one for the community at large? If the latter is true, where would be the best location and what size of array would be appropriate? The study helped provide answers to questions like these.

“We're working on determining the best way forward in providing clean energy to the Grand Portage community,” says Woerheide. “Goals are twofold — to decrease cost to the Tribe and maintain energy sovereignty.” She notes that their power is obtained from a cooperative some 60 miles away. “Because of the distance and the state of the lines, the reservation experiences frequent power outages and brown-outs. This is difficult for enterprises as well as appliances in private homes. This project has helped us get closer to a decision regarding future power sources.”

The seed grant was a fabulous opportunity and I learned a ton from everyone involved.

Krishna Woerheide, Environmental Specialist at Grand Portage

Krishna has shared findings of the solar feasibility study with the Cook County Local Energy Project and has worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) out of Colorado to further analyze the future of solar for Grand Portage. With an original intent of installing solar arrays for the five highest-usage buildings, they are now looking at what 1.5 megawatts of solar and forming a Tribal Utilities Commission would entail. 

“When making decisions and taking actions today, Ojibwe consider not only the immediate future and outcomes, but also their impact on children seven generations hence.” Grand Portage Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa



Clean Energy Focus: Solar feasibility study and energy efficiency with LED lighting
Northeast CERT Seed Grants: $10,000 ($5,000 for each project)
Other Funds Leveraged: NREL and CERTs in-kind time, tribal air quality department funds
Energy Saved Each Year: 10,080 kWh (Log Building)
Money Saved Each Year: $1,110 (Log Building)
People Involved and Reached: 590

We encourage reuse and republishing of this story. All Clean Energy Resource Teams stories are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license, meaning you can share and adapt the work as long as you give us credit. We'd also love it if you link back to the original piece. Have questions or want to chat? Drop us a line.