On average, Tribal households pay significantly more in home energy expenses than other American households . In spite of the fact that tribal lands (which cover almost 5 percent of the total area of the United States) hold an estimated 10 percent of the country’s renewable energy resources, including enough solar energy potential to generate 4.5 times the national total energy consumption in 2004, more than 14 percent of American Indian households on reservations have no access to electricity, compared to 1.2 percent of all U.S. households. (Source: 1990 US Census) In fact, the Hopi reservation has some of the highest solar energy potential in the country, but a significant number of Hopi families use wood and coal (unhealthy heat sources) to provide home heat. For several years now Red Feather has integrated solar thermal (hot water) systems into our home designs in order to take advantage of this affordable, efficient and environmentally-friendly home heat source. In 2010, Red Feather facilitated a Solar Thermal System workshop in the village of Bacavi on the Hopi reservation, where we retrofitted an existing straw bale home with a solar thermal system, while teaching tribal members about solar thermal technology through class instruction and hands-on installation. This year, funding from the Grand Canyon Trust and a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture enabled us to offer a more extensive Solar Training workshop that included the installation of four photovoltaic (electricity-generating) systems and one solar thermal (hot water) system. As with our straw bale construction program, the recipients of the systems were required to contribute a portion of the cost financially. They will see a return on that investment within approximately two years. Within days of announcing the opportunity, the training was enrolled to capacity (20 students) and we had a waiting list! Mark Jensen, Red Feather’s Construction Program Director, delivered the solar thermal training. We partnered with Orion Thornton, owner of Onsite Energy (http://www.onsiteenergymt.com) and contract instructor for Solar Energy International, to deliver the photovoltaic training. The class was comprised of builders and electricians, tribal employees, students, and other members of the community interested in learning more about the solar industry. All the students showed enthusiasm to learn, asked well thought-out questions, and during installation, showed no hesitation to jump right in and try something new, like: soldering copper pipe, getting on the roof, wiring circuits to testing them, or even crawling in a hot and dusty attic space. And, best of all, many of the students expressed interest in pursuing further education in the solar industry or getting systems for themselves or for family members.
New Straw Bale House
This year, Red Feather partnered with the Limberhand family (Joe Limberhand, Virginia Williams, and their two girls, Betty Ann and Johanna) to build a fantastic new straw bale home to replace their 45-year-old trailer. Nestled in a secluded spot in the Muddy Creek area of the Northern Cheyenne reservation, we felt very fortunate to be able to spend time there this summer. On Friday, June 15, 2012, volunteers started arriving for the first "official" week of the build. Work had actually already been underway for about a week as staff prepared the camp and oversaw the preparation of the foundation. Joe, Virginia, Betty Ann and Johanna Limberhand and their extended family welcomed the first week of volunteers with a performance by Joe's drum circle and a prayer delivered by a Cheyenne elder. His message to the group was this -- as we build this house with the Limberhands, each of our thoughts and emotions will leave an imprint that will become a part of their home. We were reminded to be kind to one another as we worked and lived together, and to be kind to the beautiful land where we were so fortunate to be spending the next few weeks.
In August, Mark and Marilynn (Red Feather construction staff) and Straw Bale Construction Interns returned to finish the interior of the home in time for the arrival of the new addition to the Limberhand family -- a little girl born September 27th. As you can see, the home turned out beautifully! Many of you reading this message shared a role in making this dream a reality for the Limberhands. Please continue to send good thoughts their way.
Director of Development and Communications at Red Feather. Passionate about Healthy Homes for All.
Categories Home Renovation, Education, Navajo Code Talker, Veterans