cynthia Isenhour’s research
showed that heating
50 to 70 percent of a
typical household’s cash
income during the coldest
months of the year.
Bret Tschacher has been a partner to Henry Red Cloud since Lakota Solar Enterprises’ inception in 2005.
Tschacher leads the wind installation trainings at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center and oversees
operations on the LSE manufacturing line.
ing process and visited Pine Ridge to teach it to
Red Cloud and Tschacher. TWP handed over
the tooling and a step-by-step training video, and
LSE assumed manufacturing.
The LSE solar air heater looks nothing like the
product of a NASA lab. It’s a 1970s-era technology, implemented with 21st-century materials
and tweaked “Lakota style,” as Red Cloud puts
it. It looks makeshift but is sturdy and reliable.
The goal was not to market a consumer product
to the outside world, but to create a simple, environmentally friendly, inexpensive way to reduce
Lakota heating bills.
It works. For $2,000, including shipping,
manufacturing and installation, the system can
offset 15 to 30 percent of an average household’s
heating costs for 25 years. The heaters are purely
supplemental, with no heat storage. The 4. 9 million Btu produced annually displace 82 gallons of
propane burned in a 65 percent-efficient furnace,
saving the homeowner $150 per year at today’s
regional propane rates. Because TWP provides
the heaters for free, that is money in pocket.
Through 2008, TWP financed LSE’s heaters primarily through individual donations and
small foundation grants. They managed to fund
just over 200 systems, most of which were distributed on a needs basis around the Pine Ridge
“a new way to honor the old ways”
Since 2005, TWP and LSE have worked to
import other renewable energy technologies
onto tribal lands. That year they set up a demonstration home on the Rosebud Reservation, just
west of Pine Ridge. Partnering with Rosebud’s
Clean Energy Education Partnership, TWP and
Reservation. TWP received several federal
grants in 2009, under the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act. It proved be a watershed
year at LSE. Demand spiked, and the shop, now
named the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
(RCREC), hired five full-time laborers. That year
278 LSE kits went out, and in 2010, another 203
left the production line. To date, TWP and LSE
have placed about 700 solar air-heating kits.
LSE outfitted the Little Thunder residence with
a 2.4-kilowatt (k W) wind turbine, 1.3-k W photovoltaic (PV) system, windbreak and shade trees,
and an LSE solar air heater.
The Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
now matches those five applications and is adding a sixth, with a ground-source heating system
along its north wall. Tschacher, Red Cloud’s
“wind warrior,” now leads wind turbine-instal-lation workshops at RCREC. Along with Red
Cloud and LSE staff, Tschacher installed a
SkyStream 3. 7 turbine ( skystreamenergy.com)
at RCEC last May. A 2-k W PV array followed in
July, courtesy of Namaste Solar (namastesolar.
com) of Boulder, Colo. Red Cloud and Tschacher plan to acquire NABCEP certification under
open scholarships to Solar Energy International
( solarenergy.org) in Carbondale, Colo.
Red Cloud calls renewable energy “a new
way to honor the old ways”— drawing on nature
in alignment with Native American cultural and
spiritual beliefs. At Pine Ridge, the electricity
displaced by the LSE project means less reliance
on the Nebraska Public Power District, which
generates 96 percent of its electricity from coal.
The Lakota, and other tribes, will have plenty
of opportunity to move away from fossil fuels.
Research at the National Renewable Energy
Lab has shown that wind and solar potential on
tribal lands is quite good. Ironically, this is in part
because their reservations were often situated on
the hottest, driest, windiest, and therefore least
desirable, parcels in the West.
While a renewable energy venture like LSE
might still be in a philanthropy-dependent stage,
it’s a first step to pulling Native American communities out of generational poverty. ST