Solar Bear is a Native American owned solar installation company.
Robert Blake of Solar Bear has a habit of mashing up two problems and coming up with a solution. His driving philosophy is “healing is in the environment.”
Solar Bear is a Native American owned solar installation company. They train people on the Red Lake Indian Reservation to install solar power. “If we can do this in Red Lake, we can bring this out to other tribal nations,” Robert explains.
“We’re going to see that solar energy can solve a human health crisis. On Native Nations and reservations, there is a high poverty rate, alcohol addiction, and drug addiction. What I’m hoping is, with this energy source, we can provide opportunities and give purpose to community members.”
Solar Bear also works with the Department of Corrections, and the Willow River Correctional Facility to provide a solar installation workforce development program for the inmates. “The idea here is to battle mass incarceration with climate change,” Robert says. “Here in the United States, we are one of the leaders in incarcerating our citizens. We have this existential problem. Can we get individuals that are incarcerated to fight climate change?
“I believe that healing is in the environment. If we can have these individuals work in the solar industry, be installers, maybe become electricians, this will be a way to heal and give back to society.
“It’s a ripple effect. When these individuals come out of the correctional facilities and are doing solar, they are taking their families off of public assistance. They show their kids that they have a steady job, and that breaks the cycle.”
Robert is also the executive director of Native Sun Community Power Development. Native promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and a just energy transition. They use education, workforce training, and demonstrations.
One Native Sun project is creating a K -12 curriculum on climate change. In the pilot program on the Red Lake Reservation, they teach children about energy efficiency, renewable energy, recycling, and gardening.
“Imagine a polar bear family that wear sunglasses. They’re solar bears,” Robert explains. “It’s going to be the kids who are going to have to deal with the aftereffects of climate change.”
Another Native Sun project is to teach solar installation skills to military veterans.