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North Dakota Welcomes Home Its First Ever Solar Farm on Standing Rock Tribal Land

Posted on Aug. 12, 2019 by Sanghamitra Sinha

Introduction

A magnificent solar farm has been built up in North Dakota near the controversial Dakota Access pipeline by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The American-Indian Sioux tribe once led the foundation to the outrageous protest against the construction of Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access Pipeline in the northern United States. The Bakken oil pipeline project witnessed a firm objection from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal (SRST) Council in 2016, for imposing nocuous threats to Lowa’s aquifers, subsequently on their drinking water too.

What did the Sioux Tribe do?

The tribe has contemplated on resisting with the help of clean energy power. With the installation of an all-new 300-kilowatt solar farm on the body of this US Indian reservation in support of clean energy independence. Rightly inspiring us with their dominion in native rights issues, Sioux nation has now exposed out their audacity through this environment-friendly fortification. “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.”-- Cody TwoBears, Standing Rock project leader for GivePower and the founder and executive director of Indigenized Energy. The plan is to eventually power their 12 reservation communities in North and South Dakota with clean energy.

Who all are in Support of the Solar Farm?

Contributions came along flourishing from the solar non-profit organizations like Jinko solar and Give power. While Give power remained the neuron of the entire solar-system furnishing, there are many other renowned names from the US solar industry that went arm-in-arm into this initiative to build the first and the largest solar energy farm in North Dakota. EmpoweredbyLight, Indigenized Energy, Wallace Global Fund to name a few. A series of solar panels lined up in tandem, shined radiantly under the sun when the grand opening of the project took place on 26th July 2019. The tribe had once lost more than 700 hundred of its members in prison due to the elongated protest for the sovereignty of their ancestral land, renewable energy sources and environmental justice. “CannonBall Community Solar Farm is a testament to the tribe’s steadfast commitment to going beyond protesting and actually inciting real change,” - 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.”

More on the Inaugurated Solar Farm

Comprising of approximately 50% of the states’ solar power, this solar farm forms a ligand between the Sioux Nation’s ancient knowledge and new technologies to strengthen long-term self-sustainability. The construction went live in February 2019 and is currently powering a Sioux Nation Community Center and Veterans Memorial Building. The CannonBall community solar farm is considered to provide for a cost relief of estimation 7,000 dollars to 10,000 dollars annually; which gets put directly back into the community. Out of the total cost of the project, which is approx. $470,000; the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer Jinko Solar donated nearly 1,000 panels. Give power made an investment of $370,000 and Empowered by Light secured a monetary grant from the Wallace Global Fund, worth $100,000. “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. North Dakota’s vast landscape which is exposed to sunlight most of the time and a chunk of places below the poverty-line might seem to be propitious for the rest of the world; but it did not have any great impact on the livelihood of its natives till date as the state is ranked last in United States solar production with just three local solar installers. Three years since the historic anti-pipeline protest, the tribal activists have now acknowledged renewable energy to the land of rich oil production.

How did the Celebrations take place?

The jollification for this event recently went in full flamboyance on 26th July 2019 in CannonBall, North Dakota where the starlit ambiance spotted names like Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo, Frances Fisher, Tulsi Gabbard, Naomi Klein, Megan Smith, and many more in the form of notable speakers. Their Camaraderie went visible till the wee hours. US representative for Hawaii and a very prominent supporter of the movement, Tulsi Gabbard reached the venue riding on a horseback and reported that, “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.” Despite the fierce opposition, the access pipeline began carrying oil in the earth of the turtle island. Tulsi Gabbard then gallantly joined thousands of army veterans in protesting at the site in December 2016. Contrary to that, in 2019 the world experienced a bunch of mirthful townspeople celebrating their clean energy independence with a feast, ceremonial dances, tours of the solar energy farm and speeches from dignitaries. In accordance to the water protestors, author and social activists Naomi Klein tweeted, “Headed to Standing Rock to learn, report, support, signal boost,"

What’s next about the Community Solar Farm?

The Phase II of the CannonBall Community Solar Farm is likely to include navigating regulations to install 100 kW of solar infrastructure, sponsored 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. Instead of outsourcing the building and maintenance operations related to their solar energy, the Sioux Tribe people thought of preparing their members by training them for sustainable energy-based jobs and ensuring their younger generations are actively involved and invested in all sustainable energy initiatives.

Conclusion

For some time now, the Native American communities are consistently adapting themselves to clean energy. As it withstands to be a blessed solution for boosting their economic independence and reducing threats to their environment and water supplies. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe indeed maintained its boundaries of legacy ensuring the economic impacts stay within their community by empowering its members, particularly its young people, with training for energy-based jobs. With the inflow of this newfangled technology, North Dakota’s reputation which was to date, lagging far behind among all US states in measures of solar energy production, might fetch a quick increment globally. The much controversial Dakota Access pipeline was originally supposed to sit near the city of Bismarck, the state capital. This was not well appreciated by their Lily-white residents at that time. An air of anxiety aroused among them, what if the pipeline developed a leak? If so, it could mean a threat to Bismarck’s drinking water system. Nevertheless, the presiding member of Bismarck did not have to pay much heed in order to cease the functioning of that oil pipeline off their land. “We are tired of the sad Indian story,” says Two Bears - the executive director of Indigenized Energy and former Standing Rock tribal council member. “What we need is powerful inspiring stories, we need to empower our kids to want to be a part of their communities and set a platform for them to live sustainably for the next 250 years.” Ranked 51st on installed solar power in the United States list, with 220 kW of installed capacity. North Dakota is primarily a coal and wind-powered state, but the reduction in costs of solar panels has enabled North Dakota to include solar power plants in its grid. A solar-station of 200 megawatts got approved this year to operate next year, a project worth 250 million dollars and covering nearly 1,600 acres of land. The solar net metering is the main incentive that is credited to the North Dakota solar-homeowners. Not only this, the 30% federal solar tax credit and a five-year property tax exemption on the increase in home value; are the other two facilities provided to the residents of this clumsy state. Although the electricity expense is as less as 0.10 dollar per kilowatt-hour in North Dakota, (this is why it is held as the state with the cheapest energy in the USA); but the increasing strive of government to reduce carbon footprints might put a challenge on the rate of electricity and upscale it in recent times.

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