Red Lake Band moves forward with major solar energy projects - P8
Signs agreements with Winkelman Building Corporation, Innovative Power Systems and Olson Energy Corporation
RED LAKE - On Thursday, February 18, 2016, the Red Lake Band signed agreements with the Winkelman Building Corp ., Innovative Power Systems Inc. and the Olson Energy Corp ., formalizing a renewable energy plan that will utilize solar power.
There are three phases to this plan. First, they will address the process of adding equipment to buildings and solar energy training. These solar panels will be installed on buildings such as all three Seven Clans Casinos in Red Lake, Thief River Falls and Warroad, along with the Red Lake Government Center, the Red Lake Nation College, the Red Lake Humanities Center, the Red Lake Justice Complex, the Red Lake Boys and Girls Club and the hospital and nursing home. The equipment is expected to result in almost $2 million per year in savings.
Phase two will focus on the development of solar energy farms on ceded lands, totally from 40-100 acres of solar panels. This goal will be to provide electricity, resulting in additional revenue for the Tribe.
The third phase of the plan will be to develop a solar energy plant, which will produce solar equipment for the industry while providing jobs for the Red Lake Nation.
David Winkelman of Innovative Power Systems, in an interview with Lakeland Public Television, stated the Red Lake Schools uses about $40,000 a month worth of electricity, and all the other buildings 20-40 thousand a month, which was a huge expense. They might require 30-40 acres of solar on the roof tops and on the ground to capture $1.6 million a year savings in electricity.
Red Lake Jobs and Community Development Facilitator Eugene McArthur said this plan fits in with the tribe's multiple commitments, which include preservation and conservation of the environment, providing an energy source which is compatible with tribal beliefs, improving the labor force, developing cost savings, diversifying the economy and providing clean energy for people.
"Eighty percent of phase one will be completed by the end of 2016, and we are already in the negotiating process for phase two," McArthur said. "We hope to begin and start breaking ground on that by the end of the year. It's going a lot quicker than we had anticipated."
McArthur said they could save over $2 million dollars in phase 1 alone.
"Solar is a direct, cost effective and environmentally responsible way to provide energy where it's needed," Winkelman stated at the signing ceremony. "It will keep flowing as long as there's light. Even on a cloudy day, solar works. As long as there are photons in the air, solar panels will work."
According to Innovative Power Systems, Solar in Minnesota is growing faster than ever with both businesses and homeowners installing arrays to save in electricity costs and protect the environment.
Some of the reasons are that solar will lower electricity bills, will help save the environment, tax credits and rebates make solar affordable, it is cheaper now than it has ever been, solar panels increase the value of homes, Minnesota weather is great for solar, solar panels are built to last, panels will protect and insulate roofs and Minnesota has a competitive market for solar.
Chairman Seki said it was a great opportunity for the Red Lake people, and he also spoke about natural resources and protecting the environment.
"Solar panels will provide heat, light and energy without burning fossil fuels and coal, which harm our air, fish and wildlife," Seki said. "We owe it to our future generations to protect our environment, and we are doing our part here today."
The project would be financed by investors that would be gathered by the Olson Energy Corporation in Minnesota, and officials expect to break ground on the solar energy farm this fall, and the solar energy plant in 2 years, which will include a substation that will provide solar power for Red Lake Tribal members.
Before Thursday's ceremony, the Red Lake Tribal Council voted unanimously on Feb. 9, 2016 to approve the plan.
The solar equipment will be designed, engineered, procured, constructed and added to the facilities by Innovative Power Systems Inc. and Winkelman Building Corp. at a cost of between $20-$30 million. Olson Energy Corp. has developed a financial plan to assist in addressing the financial needs for the tribe's solar development.
For more information on Innovative Power Systems Inc. visit their website: http://ips-solar.com/
Winkelman Building Corporation: http://winkbuild.com/
Olson Energy Corporation: http://www.olsonenergycorporation.com/