Community Spotlight: Red Lake Starts Phase One Of Solar Energy Plan

“I’m glad these projects are becoming a reality. It’s a long time coming,” says Red Lake Tribal Chairman Darrell G. Seki, Sr.

Red Lake is going solar! The project kicked off with 250 solar panels being lifted to the roof of the government building. It’s the first step of phase one of the project.

“It’s the smallest one to demonstrate what we can do, and my vision is that we can stimulate people in the community to invest in some of these systems as well,” says Ralph Jacobson, who is in charge of construction and financing for the Red Lake solar project.

The project will bring dozens of jobs to the reservation. It’s also cost effective.

“We’re utilizing renewable tax credits, Utilizing depreciation costs and depreciation credits, and also a gift tax where we got investors investing in each individual building – each individual facility,” says Gene McArthur, the Red Lake jobs and community development facilitator.

“I believe we’ll save about $1.6 million, but it could be more. The schools system will save money. All these businesses we have will save money for this,” adds Seki, Sr.

The boxes on the roof will soon turn into solar panels. The first set went on the government building, but the next sets will go on the schools, the courts, the casinos and the Boys and Girls Club building. It’s all a part of phase one.

“Phase two is to develop a 140 acre solar field where we generate 12 to 15 megawatts of power and then sell that,” says McArthur. “Then phase three of the Red Lake Nation solar plan which is to be self sufficient, to be able to provide electricity to renewable energy to all tribal members within the boundaries.”

One thing that’s important to the reservation is that the project is also in line with their values.

“We want to go into the future of solar energy but also continue to live in harmony with Mother Nature, so solar energy will take us to that place,” says Darwin Sumner, Red Lake Tribal Secretary.

Robert Blake, a Red Lake tribal member who also works with Solar Bear, one of the companies helping with the project, says, “this a part of our beliefs is to protect Mother Earth, and so I believe that Native people need to lead by example and by going with solar energy, by going with renewable energy projects, this is definitely the way that we can go ahead and lead the rest of the country this way.”