Ponsford | Pine Point

Young Anishinaabe at 8th Fire Solar are building the clean energy economy

Interview with Ava Mart and Nick Bellrock

Lighting the Eighth Fire

 

There is something happening in Ponsford, MN near Pine Point. A new generation of energy entrepreneurs are building solar thermal panels for use in Minnesota and across the continent.

We spoke with Ava Mart and Nick Bellrock with 8th Fire Solar to learn more, starting with a little background on the new company.

 

We have a solar panel manufacturing facility, 8th Fire Solar. We purchased state-of-the-art technology and began manufacturing last fall. We have seven employees. We source most of our glass locally, from Duluth, and my team figured out how to work with the steel themselves. We just started selling them. It can reduce your heat bill by 20%.

Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth Executive Director, Founder of White Earth Land Recovery Project and 8th Fire Solar

Can you tell us a little about 8th Fire Solar?

According to Anishinaabe prophecies, we are in the time of the Seventh Fire. At this time, it is said we have a choice between a path that is well-worn and scorched, and a path that is green and unworn. If we move toward the green path, the Eighth Fire will be lit and people will come together to make a better future.  

We say we are lighting the Eighth Fire. At 8th Fire Solar, we are building a better future for our Native American communities by creating and assembling a sustainable and renewable energy product: solar thermal panels. Our manufacturing facility near Pine Point—operated by the Anishinaabe—creates and provides high-quality, efficient renewable energy technology for heating homes and small businesses throughout the continent.

For more than 10 years, we’ve worked on solar installations on the White Earth and Leech Lake reservations in northern Minnesota. In 2017, we purchased our own facility and partnered with our friends at the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) to manufacture their innovative solar thermal technology. In spring 2019 we officially launched 8th Fire Solar, building RREAL’s patent-pending solar thermal panels for homes and small businesses.

Heating accounts for the majority of energy used in an average U.S. household. The cost of this heat, especially in many of our tribal and rural communities, is too much to bear and leads many families to choose "heating or eating." Solar thermal heating is an economic and reliable energy choice that helps lower bills and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.  

We work with a well-trained team that makes the highest quality, most efficient solar thermal panels in the country!

8th Fire Solar Team

How did you learn about this work?

Nick Bellrock: I learned about this type of work from Winona LaDuke who asked if I was interested.

Ava Mart: I had previously worked exclusively for Honor the Earth’s merch and marketing department. Since then, I’ve been inspired to make the move to a position and field I personally deem a bit more rewarding and worthwhile, as it directly impacts the standard in which all people are living. Hopefully. ; ) 

Why solar thermal?

Nick Bellrock: It’s free heat that’ll pay for itself over time. It’s very helpful during winter months especially.

Ava Mart: Solar thermal is truly the route to go as it’s cost efficient. It’s clearly much cleaner than fossil fuels and natural gas, but also, it differs from PV in it’s ways of tremendously helping tackle heating bills.

 

nick in shop

What made you a good fit for your role in the clean energy industry?

Nick Bellrock: My good construction and mechanical skills.

Ava Mart: I believe it is my ability to interact with people well, that got me into this position! That and my prior experience handling administration work.

 

What is the hardest part of the job?

Nick Bellrock: Preparation for install. There’s always something new to a new job site.

Ava Mart: The hardest part of my job would come back to the fact that there are a few moving pieces yet that we are working at polishing up, so it is a day to day learning process. Being in this position, one has to be awfully fluid.

To other young people thinking about getting into clean energy, I would say please, please do! Become the embodiment of our ideal future generations.

Ava Mart, 8th Fire Solar
8th fire solar team

What would you say to other young people interested in careers in clean energy?

Nick Bellrock: I would say it’s a great way to get involved with your community, as well as a whole bunch of other people.

Ava Mart: To other young people thinking about getting into clean energy, I would say please, please do! Become the embodiment of our ideal future generations. There are so many people, places, and things that are stuck in the fossil fuel era—and let it be known, that is a dying industry. Its clock is ticking, and I feel we should collectively hold a bit of remorse for relying on an industry that has had such a significant hand in the destruction of all the natural, earthly consciousness around us, around the world. It is my relatives’ and my very own responsibility to make sure there is a mother earth for all of us to love and reside on.

What do you see as the role for Native American communities & clean energy?

Nick Bellrock: I see Native American communities as promoters for clean energy to people everywhere that are interested in it or want to learn more about it.

Ava Mart: I see our Indigenous communities and peoples sort of trailblazing the rest of the world into deep spiritual belief systems that connect our futures on this earth, with clean energy. With the knowledge of how easy it can be, but also how necessary it is, to live simpler and closer to our roots in order for all of creation to survive these times, and eventually thrive.

I see Native American communities as promoters for clean energy to people everywhere that are interested in it or want to learn more about it.

Nick Bellrock, 8th Fire Solar

More photos from 8th Fire Solar

News: Detroit Lakes
Tribune

 

Plant to build high-end solar panels opens in Ponsford

May 9, 2019: A production plant for solar panels is opening in the Pine Point area, and it held an open house and job fair Thursday for people from Pine Point and surrounding communities who want to get involved.

 

News: Star Tribune

 

Intelligent and idealistic, Winona LaDuke turns to hemp farming, solar power to jump-start the 'next economy'

June 22, 2020: I understand you’re also manufacturing solar heating panels near White Earth? Yes, we have a solar panel manufacturing facility, 8th Fire Solar. We purchased state-of-the-art technology and began manufacturing last fall.

 
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