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Red Cloud Renewable awarded $1.65M to weatherize Indigenous homes

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Red Cloud Renewable
Red Cloud Renewable Executive Director Henry Red Cloud and Women's Program Specialist Gloria Red Cloud pose next to solar panels.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded a Pine Ridge nonprofit $1.65 million to help lower the energy costs and emissions of Indigenous families.

Red Cloud Renewable is dedicated to promoting renewable energy, food sovereignty, sustainable building and more for tribal communities through “Native to Native” interactions.

John Red Cloud, director of development, said the organization will use the money to make 30 homes of Native American families from four different tribes across three states more weatherproof and energy efficient.

“What we’re targeting is a 50 percent minimum energy reduction using weatherization, electrification, photovoltaic systems, vertical wall solar collectors, and the idea is to get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions through these deep energy retrofits,” Red Cloud said.

Deep energy retrofits are full-building analyses of how different energy sources in a home — like air quality, lighting, heating, appliances, etc. — add to the overall energy use and what can be done to reduce that use.

Red Cloud Renewable is one of 21 organizations to receive a combined $36.5 million through the DOE’s Enhancement and Innovation Program. The funding comes from the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps low-income people lower their energy bills.

Red Cloud said he hopes the funding will allow the organization to expand its reach and help spread energy sovereignty.

“It’s going to start other conversations on the peripheral, and really, I hope, catapult this into a wildly successful operation, and we hope the government comes back and says, ‘You did so well, we want you to do this times a hundred or times a thousand,’” he said.

Red Cloud also hopes this project will help bridge the divide between those living in these communities and the nation’s government.

“The Pine Ridge Reservation, there’s a lot of hopelessness there, and poverty and despair, and a lot of people feel forgotten, so we’re going in there and saying, ‘Look, here we are.’" Red Cloud said. "We’re going to provide a little bit of hope and maybe rekindle that sense of trust in the government and start building that from a grassroots level.”

Red Cloud Renewable also trains other tribal members on how to integrate and support sustainable energy practices on their own reservations. The organization has worked with 70 different tribes from across the country.

Jordan is a senior English and journalism major at SDSU in Brookings. She is from De Smet, South Dakota. She is based out of the Sioux Falls studio.
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