Solar 2021

Social/Environmental Justice Track: Tribal & Rural Advances

Session Moderator: Laura Rigell

An essential aspect of the just and complete energy transformation is the dramatic expansion of solar use on tribal lands and in rural areas throughout the world. This session covers the challenges facing these communities and approaches that are helping them advance the transformation. Presenters discuss how to maximize the multiple socio-economic development benefits of solar on their lands, institute new paradigms of development, re-institute sustainability practices in general, and establish partnerships that are making a real impact on their advancements.


Aug 05 2021


2:15 pm - 3:45 pm


West Ballroom


  • Johnny Weiss
    Johnny Weiss
    Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

    As an educator, a certified industrial trainer, and a solar building professional, Johnny has more than 40 years experience in the real-world applications of renewable energy technologies. Johnny Co-Founded Solar Energy International (SEI) in 1991. As the long-time Executive Director, he led SEI for over 20 years, helping establish SEI as a leader in solar training. He is currently on the Board of Directors. He brings supportive, environmental and ecological ethics and understanding to team efforts. Johnny is particularly interested in solar electricity-generating projects that are sustainable, green, international, and socially worthwhile. Currently, he is focused on helping to develop Solar Training Centers in Tanzania and on Native American reservations.
    Presentation Title: The Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center – Solar Training Update and Challenges

    Presentation Description: The clash of cultures between Native and non-Natives has been a harsh story, but we also know that history is not over yet… we have the opportunity to create a better history. RCR deserves the support of the now established and successful mainstream solar industry. At its core, RCR believes that it’s solar path is a new way to honor the old ways. (Waste’- Lakota for “It’s all good!”)

  • Mark Nabong
    Mark Nabong
    Monotreme Consulting

    Mark Nabong has consulted on numerous renewable energy and telecommunication projects on Native American land. Currently a principal at Monotreme Consulting, he was previously market lead for supercharger infrastructure at Tesla and senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Nicholas Poplawski has worked for over a decade in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and developing utility-scale wind and solar projects with US Global Energy. He previously worked at Illinois Clean Energy and as a program implementation consultant to Commonwealth Edison. He holds a degree in International Affairs from Georgetown University, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
    Presentation Title: Local Development, Global Mindset: Developing Sustainable Renewable Energy and the Sovereign Nature of Tribes

    Presentation Description: Tribal reservation territory will be an important part of a sustainable, renewable energy transition in the US. It would be erroneous to approach potential projects on Native American land from the perspective of a typical domestic development project. A better paradigm would be to look at such projects as international development projects, with some domestic features. The tribal governments have sovereignty in many of the facets that renewable energy projects touch on, including regulatory, legal, and policy issues. Potential partners can and should re-orient themselves working in tandem with tribes to create socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable energy projects.

  • Ogechukwu Ukandu
    Ogechukwu Ukandu
    E and G Integrated Services Limited

    Dr. Ogechukwu is an alumnus of School of Biomedical Engineering, ABUTH, Zaria, Kaduna Polytechnic, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Rivers State University, University of Liverpool, London, and University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he earned diplomas and degrees. He earned his two Masters Degrees and Ph.D from the Rivers State University, University of Liverpool, London, and University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He specialized in Solar Power Technology, Rural Electrification and Software Engineering.
    Presentation Title: SOLAR ON NATIVE LAND

    Presentation Description: My compelling point about my proposed presentation is on the need to make native lands much more habitable economically, socially and otherwise. By so doing the quest for migration from rural (native) lands to urban (downtown) areas will reduce because all the amenities that attracts people to urban areas are also obtainable in native lands.

  • Renee Millard-Chacon
    Renee Millard-Chacon
    Spirit of the Sun

    Renee Millard-Chacon is a writer, educator, Danzante Azteca, Xicana activist, and most importantly the mother of two sons. She is an indigenous womxn of Dine/Azteca decent, fighting for future generations and committed to relating climate justice to social justice. Her family is from the Denver community and she now works as a cultural educator and teacher. She has worked with the International Indigenous Youth Council,, Four Winds American Indian Council of Denver, Womxn From the Mountain, and Earth Day Live 2020, in hosting, organizing, and leading marches, workshops, and educational resources for social justice and environmental justice. She maintains her culture everyday as a Sahumadora/Malinzin in Azteca Danza for Grupo ColorAztlan in Denver and Tlahuitzcalli in Boulder. Her goal now, is to help in the circles she has the opportunity to engage in to move forward to heal through environmental awareness, transformative education, and support to diverse leaders ready to fight for future generations. She welcomes any respectful correspondence to start doing the tedious but powerful work of creating better relations in spaces that deserve to be healed because of the trauma from historical inequality and environmental racism.

  • Robert Foster
    Robert Foster
    College of Engineering, New Mexico State University

    Robert has over 30 years experience with solar energy projects in 43 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Robert first worked in Afghanistan in 2006, and served from 2008-09 in Afghanistan for NMSU as the Deputy Chief of Party of the USAID Afghanistan Water, Agriculture, and Technology Transfer Program where he introduced indirect solar food dryers to the country. From 2009-12 he was the Chief Engineer for the USAID Afghanistan Clean Energy Program where he furthered solar food dryer development. He continued to work in Afghanistan through 2014 on UK and New Zealand solar projects. He is an Assistant Professor with the NMSU College of Engineering teaching solar energy. Robert serves as the current ASES Chairman.

    Presentation Description: Traditional outdoor food drying techniques are non-hygienic and inefficient drying on rocks, rooftops, relatively low drying temperatures which are highly dependent on ambient conditions. NMSU introduced newer and superior passive and active hygienic solar food drying technologies that greatly improved drying times by 3 or more times faster. NMSU worked with development partners like MEDA, GERES, GPFA, and the Kabul University Renewable Energy Lab to use solar food dryers for local economic development. NMSU taught carpeteners how to build and sell solar food dryers. Afghan communities readily adopted the improved drying technology with thousands of units now used by communities across the country.

    Robert is also Speaking at the Industry RoundTable representing SolAqua.

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