Next Generation Energy’s Sun Bandit® is being incorporated into the first generation of net-zero housing on Native American lands. Tribally-chartered Aki Development has approved a development venture to introduce Saga Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and Sun Bandit's PV-powered solar hybrid water heating systems into new, sustainable housing stock to lower energy bills and meet projected housing shortages; this precedent-setting collaboration could include up to 385,000 households, creating clean tech jobs and the first affordable green housing options for Native American communities throughout North America.
The nation’s first partnership to bring clean tech training and job creation to Native American lands via on-site production and delivery of net zero homes was announced by Next Generation Energy (NGE), Saga Solar and project developer Wakaiagon Innovations from the floor of North America’s largest solar trade show -- Solar Power International -- in Las Vegas last week.
The agreement between Sun Bandit® parent Next Generation Energy and Saga Solar calls for training and installation of solar PV and solar water heating solutions in the Wakaiagon housing development on Minnesota’s Leech Lake Territory, whose pilot phase calls for 24 sustainable homes to be built on Native American lands and ready for occupancy by July 2017. Future phases have the capacity to sate the HUD-defined shortage of an additional 4,700 homes on Leech Lake Territory. A broader view reveals the need for as many as 385,000 new households(1) on Tribal lands.
“This is the first initiative to introduce a holistic approach to sustainable living, economic development, education and job creation for Indigenous Americans in over half a century,” said Wakaiagon Innovations CEO and Aki Development partner Mike Myers.
“Indigenous people have lived sustainably for centuries. But when the federal government took the land, told us where we were going to live and how, we lost the gift of sustainable living,” recalls Myers. “This project brings us to a better place – one that aligns with the Seventh Generation philosophies of Indigenous Americans.”
The Wakaiagon project will be overseen by Aki Development, LLC, a tribally-chartered corporation headquartered in Cass Lake, Minnesota. As part of the deal, Saga Solar, a newly-acquired Aki Development company, will be relocating its main production facility from St. Paul to Cass Lake Minnesota, the seat of the Leech Lake Ojibwa’s tribal government, where it will become the first and only solar panel manufacturer to be indigenously owned and located within the territory of a First Nations’ tribal land.
Saga Solar will be delivering modules used to power the homes and – as a Sun Bandit Preferred Partner – will provide panels that can be seamlessly integrated into Sun Bandit’s patented, PV-powered solar water heating systems, which can be grid-tied or provide hot water and storage independent of the grid or any utility.
“The key to this partnership is our shared vision to deliver clean tech solutions for Native American tribal communities in Minnesota, throughout the Midwest and beyond,” said Saga Solar Founder and CEO R. Marie Zola.
Not only does the project address the need for quality jobs and housing, its sustainability components afford residents relief from outrageous energy bills. According to the Department of Energy, heating water is the second-largest energy expense in most households. Home maintenance costs hit Native Americans particularly hard.
“Right now, the average Native family spends upwards of 40% of their income on living in their house. And as Mike [Myers] mentioned, families are having to share households in order to make ends meet. We want to turn that around. Our selection of Sun Bandit’s new hybrid water heating and storage system is really at the center of this strategy,” continued Zola.
“We’re collaborating with the tribal community college to educate Native Americans on the latest solar technologies; encourage indigenous engineering, research and innovation; create jobs through our relationships with incentive programs like Made In Minnesota – and be a supplier of a green, clean energy product that can be used anywhere,” Zola said.
The homes being built through Wakaiagon are modeled after the University of Minnesota Duluth’s House-Cubed (House3) living concept (2), a closed-wall hybrid building system whose envelopes can be assembled on-site in a plug-and-play format in as few as eight hours.
The envelopes will be produced off-site using locally-sourced mate-rials, then shipped to tribal lands where they’ll be completed with energy-efficient fixtures, materials and systems (from low-flow toilets to LED lighting and energy-efficient doors and windows) and equipped with Saga PV modules manufactured on tribal lands -- and Sun Bandit’s PV-powered solar hybrid water heating systems.
Next Generation Energy’s Bill Beedon says the team decided to announce the NGE-Saga partnership at Solar Power International because without a shared vision for sustainable living, making solar affordable across all socio-economic strata and a desire to protect the planet for future generations, this partnership couldn’t have happened.
“Our excitement here is multi-level,” said Beedon. “The economic opportunity this partnership provides combined with the privilege of delivering quality sustainable solutions for Native Americans living in affordable housing aligns perfectly with our corporate vision of making solar available to everyone. Who owns the sun?” asked Beedon. “Solutions like Sun Bandit help ensure we all do.”
To create a sense of ownership where historically there’s been none, Waiakagon is sitting down with design charrettes Leech Lake residents can use to customize their new homes, replete with the lower energy costs solar delivers. Myers says it’s a way to create economic, environmental, cultural and social sustainability – and a means of fulfilling Indigenous peoples’ Seventh Generation responsibilities.
“For us it’s about spreading this opportunity out,” Myers said. “Educating, creating jobs, living more sustainably -- and letting the ownership of these ideals flow to the communities.”
Next Generation Energy