Henry Red Cloud displays a large solar panel at Lakota Solar Enterprises, and the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, just east of Oglala on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo by James Giago Davies / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Bringing jobs to Pine Ridge by way of solar energy

BUFFALO GAP - Lookout Solar Park’s construction permit was approved earlier this month by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. Located East of Buffalo Gap on the brinks of the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Lookout Solar Project is to be built on leased land from the Rapp family, Oglala Sioux tribal members.

Costing $100 million and surmounting to around 500,000 solar panels, Lookout Solar Park is the first large-scale solar energy project to be built in South Dakota. Aimed to be completed in 2021, the solar facility will be able to produce up to 110 megawatts. Wircon, a German renewable energy developer and parent company of Lookout Solar, currently does not have any projects in the United States that are completed, or in mid to late stages of development.

The Rapp Family has been working towards building a solar site for over 4 years, and have been working with Wircon for nearly as long in hopes of their vision coming to fruition. Lynn Rapp is quick to see the economic impact of having such a sight saying that more jobs are good jobs, and jobs are what is needed.

“This project will bring nearly 200 badly needed jobs to Pine Ridge and our goal has always been to improve the economy of the reservation,” Rapp said.

Renewable energy supporters like Henry Red Cloud hope that the Lookout Solar Project will jumpstart local tribal governments to lead other tribes and the State of South Dakota into an energy and economic sufficient future.

Red Cloud, founder of Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCEC), said: “People think of casino tribes when they think of tribes, but having solar here will be our new casino revenue.”

The project has been working closely with the Tribal Employment Rights office. After a meeting in early January with Wircon and the Rapp family, Red Cloud and RCEC hope to be training more than 500 tribal members for the installation of between 7,000-10,000 solar panels per day.


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