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Tribes “Turning On” Alternative Energy to “Turn Down” Energy Costs

September 10, 2007

Bismarck, ND – The rising cost of home heating is draining pocketbooks in North Dakota's Native American communities, and renewable energy sources, like solar heating, are getting a closer look as a way to "cool down" costs while heating up homes. Richard Fox, with the organization Trees Water and People, helped install a solar heating panel on a housing unit at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. He says it's a demonstration, to show North Dakota tribes an alternative to providing heating assistance funds.

"Many tribal communities who have been helping their members with their high energy costs are getting to a point where they have to consider how to lessen the amount of that cost rather than just paying more every year."

Fox says the units cost roughly $1,200, but can save homeowners 25 percent on their heating bills. 175 units have been installed on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota, and there's an effort to encourage the use of solar panels in North Dakota as well.

"We primarily are working to develop the expertise in renewable energy in Native American communities, so the college is certainly an integral part of that."

The solar unit was supplied by Lakota Solar Enterprises of Pine Ridge. Environmental activist Winona LaDuke was on hand for the installation, along with students from the United Tribes' Environmental Science and Construction Technology Programs.

Dick Layman/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - ND