Green Arrow Energy’s solar training program on the Montana First Nations reserve is seeing strong retention among students.
Just halfway through its second training phase, leaders are pleased with its development. Chief Darrell Strongman spoke to attendees at an open house Thursday, Oct. 29 and said the developing this renewable energy falls in line with First Nations principles. “We are the keepers of Mother Earth,” he stated.
The program runs for 13 weeks and in the first group, 16 started out and only one did not graduate. The current, second group still has all 16 of its students with no drop-outs.
Strongman added that the goal of the program is to bring as many First Nations members into the program as possible and he says the training program is inclusive of all First Nations. Among the 16 trainees are eight from the Montana Band, four from Samson Cree, two from Alexander First Nation and two from Saddlelake Cree.
“This initiative here is clean energy so we’re very happy about that,” said Strongman.
The next step for the band is to develop a solar farm that will bring energy savings to many on the reserve. What originally began as a way to reduce power costs has developed into a full fledged economic development project, added Strongman. Because of the need to understand the installation process, trainees are learning the ins and outs of the industry, which he feels is giving them additional life skills.
“The power of the sun. The sun gives us life,” added Coun. Brad Rabbit.
He said the project could not come about without support from a collaborative group; funding agencies, First Nations communities, federal and provincial stakeholders and industry leaders helped get the project going. “When you work collectively and when you all have the same focus … it’s very easy to see a common goal,” explained Rabbit.
Among the other speakers was Green Arrow CEO Barry Wheaton who is proud of the development of the project. “The future’s really bright,” he predicted.
He suggests reliance on fossil fuels is changing into renewable resources and he feels solar power has a strong future. “Oil and gas is not a shoe-in as what it used to be,” Wheaton added.
While the Montana Band is among the leaders in First Nations developing solar power, others are starting to join in the effort. Not only does it save in utility costs but Wheaton says it is cleaner and better for the environment. He added that the training will take employees to new heights.
Student Henry Rabbit said that when he and his fellow classmates started they did not know much about each other but that has changed. “We came together as strangers, but we leave as a crew.”