- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

RED LAKE, Minn. (AP) - The Red Lake Nation is installing 15 megawatts of solar panels atop their largest buildings, pushing for enough power to light every bulb in the tribe’s casinos, the tribal college and all government buildings.

Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/1SWhTgM ) reports that tribal leaders say it’s a big step toward energy independence rather than having to rely on electricity generated outside their borders.

“Grandfather sun and mother earth are the foundations of who we are as native people,”said Red Lake development director Eugene McArthur. “With this project, we’re harnessing the forces of nature.”

Red Lake development director Eugene McArthur said on Thursday the project will break ground this June, and save the tribe roughly $2 million a year in energy costs.

The installation won’t be cheap. David Winkelman, who is working with St. Paul-based Innovative Power Systems to design the Red Lake solar project estimates the cost at upwards of $20 million. A vast majority of costs are expected to be paid for by the Olson Energy Corporation.

Robert Olson said his company will use government tax credits and incentives to recoup their investment, and gift the solar arrays to the tribe after five years. At that point, the tribe will own the panels free and clear.

Tribal Chair Darrell Seki hopes to leverage income from that solar farm to set up a solar panel factory on the reservation and build electrical infrastructure.

In five years, he plans to generate enough solar power on tribal land to supply every home on Red Lake.

“We’ll provide our own energy for our people,” Seki said. “Not from the power plants that pollute our lakes.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org


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