Standing Rock Is ‘Indigenizing Energy’: Nonprofits Build First and Largest Solar Farm in North Dakota

A 300-kilowatt solar farm is coming to the Standing Rock Reservation, just three miles from the Dakota Access Pipeline, demonstrating the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s commitment to sovereignty, sustainable power and environmental justice.

GivePower, a non-profit organization that provides solar energy solutions to developing regions that need it most, led the effort to build the CannonBall Community Solar Farm in partnership with Empowered by Light, a non-profit focused on solar micro grids for developing communities.

Situated on the Reservation in CannonBall, North Dakota, additional project partners include Indigenized Energy, which promotes renewable energy within the Sioux Nation; Jinko Solar, a commercial solar panel manufacturer; and the Wallace Global Fund, a private foundation supporting engaged citizenry.

In 2017, the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline became operational, following passionate protests because of the pipeline’s impact to the environment and to sites sacred to American Indians. Out of this controversy and out of concerns of the pipeline’s impact on the environment, the Sioux Nation fought back in an unconventional and empowering way by working with GivePower and its partners to build the first and largest solar energy farm in North Dakota.

Despite its expansive landscape conducive to solar energy generation and high poverty areas that desperately need to cut costs and create jobs, North Dakota is ranked last in U.S. solar production and has just three local solar installers. The CannonBall Community Solar Farm went live in February of this year and already represents half the total solar energy being generated across the state. Currently, the farm powers a Sioux Nation Community Center and Veterans Memorial Building and has a projected cost savings of $7,000 – $10,000 annually, which is being put directly back into the community.

The total cost of the project cost was $470,000. $370,000 came from GivePower and Empowered by Light secured a $100,000 grant from the Wallace Global Fund.

“Our mission of indigenizing energy is about merging the cultural values and wisdom passed down to us with new technologies to establish a sustainable platform that not only helps us live better lives today, but also ensures our footprint over the next several centuries is a positive one,” said Cody TwoBears, Standing Rock project leader for GivePower and the founder and executive director of Indigenized Energy. “We’re excited to share this fast-growing solar farm with the world, as it pays tribute to everyone who’s come to Standing Rock and all their hard work and tireless dedication toward protecting our people and land.”

“Sioux Nation has inspired us with their leadership for native rights issues, and the CannonBall Community Solar Farm is a testament to the tribe’s steadfast commitment to going beyond protesting and actually inciting real change,” said Hayes Barnard, President of GivePower. “It’s an honor to unite with other great organizations to serve as allies in Sioux Nation’s ongoing fight to preserve their land with renewable energy projects that generate revenue and support their cultural youth programs.”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a leading supporter of Sioux Nation’s commitment to the environment said, “The CannonBall Community Solar Farm is the result of a coalition of Native American leaders, military veterans, environmental groups and sustainability-minded business interests coming together around a common vision of citizenship and stewardship of our precious natural resources.”

Phase two of the CannonBall Community Solar Farm will include navigating regulations to install 100 kW of solar infrastructure, donated by GivePower, on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-owned homes, placing additional solar infrastructure on schools and other public buildings, and expanding training programs. Rather than continuing to outsource the building and maintenance of their solar energy, the Sioux Nation Tribe is empowering their people by training them for energy-based jobs and ensuring their youth are actively involved and invested in all sustainable energy initiatives.

A kick-off celebration for the CannonBall Community Solar Farm will take place on July 26, 2019, in CannonBall, North Dakota. Speakers may include personalities such as Frances Fisher, Tulsi Gabbard, Naomi Klein, Megan Smith and Shailene Woodley. A private tour of Standing Rock will also take place on July 27 for event participants. For more information on the project and to donate to this solar initiative, please visit here.

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