Today the White House honored 10 local heroes as “Champions of Change” for their efforts to promote and expand solar deployment in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.
Among the honorees is Henry Red Cloud (a direct fifth generation descendent of Chief Red Cloud, the famous Lakota war chief), founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), one of the first 100-percent Native American-owned and -operated renewable energy companies in the nation, and Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC), a one-of-a-kind Native educational facility where tribes from around the U.S. receive hands-on green job training in renewable energy technology and sustainable building practices. Located between the towns of Pine Ridge and Oglala—on 1001 Solar Warrior Road, to be exact—the LSE and RCREC complex employs approximately nine full-time workers and several part-timers during the busy season.
On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home to roughly 28,000 Oglala Sioux, Red Cloud is leading a green power revolution. He not only sees solar power as a way to reduce home heating costs, but as a way to lead his people out of economic despair. “Last year, more than $1 million was spent on propane and electricity to keep our members warm. We can take that money and turn it around, start some businesses,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network.
As the President highlighted in his State of the Union address, the pace of solar deployment has picked up. Last year was a record-breaking year for new solar installations, and the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased around eleven fold—from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 13 gigawatts today, which is enough to power more than 2.2 million American homes. In fact, every four minutes another American home or business went solar. Whether it is deployed at the utility scale or by rural electric co-ops, businesses, multifamily housing, or new home builders, solar power is now a cost competitive option that offers financial and environmental benefits. This trend has yielded new economic opportunities for many Americans – job growth in the solar industry is now increasing by 20 percent each year.
Lakota Solar Enterprises
Henry says, “This is a new way to honor the old ways.”
In June 2013, the President launched a comprehensive Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and advance the clean energy economy. As part of that Plan, the President set a goal to double solar, wind, and geothermal electricity generation by 2020 and to more than triple the onsite renewable energy production in federally assisted residential buildings.
Today, at the White House Solar Summit, Obama honored individuals that are leading the charge across the country to create jobs and economic opportunity in solar power, and drive policy changes at the local level to further advance solar deployment in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
The National Congress of American Indians released the following statement about the White House's selection of a representative of Indian country as a “Champion of Change.”
"Tribal nations are engaging in some of the most innovative and dynamic projects around clean energy development. NCAI is encouraged that the Administration continues to highlight this work and give Native enterprises the attention they deserve."