A second wave of First Nations students are on their way to being full fledged solar panel installation experts, thanks to a Montana Band training program.
Organizers held a special information session Tuesday, July 19 at the Montana Band office to celebrate the 18 students soon to graduate from the course. Classroom time is approximately nine weeks and when complete, the students will have all the skills needed to work in the solar panel industry.
This group of students are not only from Montana Band but also from areas such as Ermineskin, Samson, Saddle Lake and even Manitoba.
Montana Band Coun. Brad Rabbit spoke first at the graduation ceremony and suggested the technology used to harness the power of the sun through solar panels is important for the band, and all First Nations, to move forward.
“I’m very thankful that we have come to this point to be able to share what we have learned,” said Rabbit.
The Montana Band was the first in Maskwacis to begin this process and now Samson planners are looking into creating a solar power plan. Montana Chief Darrel Strongman is pleased to see such growth within the program. The first round brought positive responses and further funding to continue.
He advised the students to continue through and complete the training. “Do your best. That’s the best advice I can give you.”
Without support from the province, who helped provide funding for training, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, who provided financial support as well, the project would not have been possible, added Strongman.
Samson Chief Kurt Buffalo praised the students for their dedication and said that First Nations collectively have a responsibility to Mother Earth and having skilled technicians to install solar panels is one way to make that happen, said Buffalo.
Student David Buffalo offered a few words about the process and while it took some time to complete the application, he feels it is an opportunity to give back to the community. What impressed him most was the inclusive nature of the application, which allows for applicants from any location.
Ermineskin Coun. Daniel Wildcat offered his thoughts on solar energy stating that the Ermineskin Cree Nation is also looking into developing solar energy. “I really do believe the future is in green energy.”
Heading the company implementing the solar panels project, Green Arrow, is CEO Barry Wheaton, who told attendees that the solar panels on the Montana Band administration building have reduced electricity costs by 50 per cent to $1,500 per month compared to $3,000 per month.
His hope is to develop a 2-megawatt solar energy farm in the area to bring power to residents.