Environmental Leadership
September 15, 2023

Solar*Rewards and Solar Bear bring clean energy to Minneapolis non-profit, MIGIZI

New building powered by solar supports developing career pathways for Native youth

Native-owned solar developer, Solar Bear and Xcel Energy have announced the completion of a 26 kilowatt (kW) solar array on the roof of Minneapolis non-profit MIGIZI’s new building. The solar array – which takes advantage of Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards program for non-profit organizations serving low-income clients – will provide clean, affordable, renewable energy to the building, which is consistent with the organization’s commitment to equity, sustainability and building green tech career pathways for Native youth.  

In 2020, MIGIZI’s former home was destroyed by fire in the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. This significantly impacted the organization and the Native population it serves, but the community rallied together and continued to operate MIGIZI’s programs from a temporary location while conducting a capital campaign to raise over $6.6 million for its new building. The building – which will be unveiled at a grand opening event on October 5 – features a top-of-the-line recording studio, a tech center, a makerspace garage and spaces for MIGIZI’s programs to provide academic support and cultural resilience for Native youth.  

“MIGIZI is honored to work with Solar Bear on this project and support an American Indian owned company that not only provides solar installation but career pathways in the industry,” said Kelly Drummer, Executive Director of MIGIZI. “The loss of our building over 3 years ago after less than a year in the newly renovated building was devastating, but it has allowed us to rebuild greener and better than before. Our 3 solar arrays provide energy but also serve as a training ground for learning and building skills in solar, heat pump and air chill cooling efficient systems. This project and building will allow us to work with close to 60 youth each year in green energy careers.”   

Solar Bear, a Native-owned solar developer and workforce training organization, developed the solar array powering MIGIZI’s new building. Solar Bear’s other projects include 200 kW and 70 kW solar PV systems on the Red Lake Nation, a solar training program at Red Lake and Prairie Island Indian Community, and a recently completed 37 kW system at Red Lake. Solar Bear and its non-profit arm, Native Sun Community Power Development, are also active in energy efficiency, clean energy workforce training and re-entry programs for incarcerated individuals.  

Native Sun and Xcel Energy collaborate on programs to expand access to electric vehicles (EV) and EV charging for Tribal Nations and individuals, as well as the Power Up program with the Xcel Energy and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to prepare women and people of color for careers in clean energy.

“Solar Bear is excited to team up with MIGIZI and Xcel Energy on this solar project that will serve as a training tool and inspiration for Native American youth as they pursue careers in renewable energy,” said Bob Blake, CEO of Solar Bear and Executive Director of Native Sun Community Power Development. 

Xcel Energy, a long-term collaborator for both organizations, supports this project through its Solar*Rewards program for Income-Qualified Non-Profit/Government Entity Systems. Solar*Rewards provides both an up-front incentive per watt to reduce the initial costs of installing solar, and a performance incentive per kilowatt hour of solar generation annually for ten years. Together with new tax credits under the federal Inflation Reduction Act, Solar*Rewards helps make solar accessible to non-profit organizations like MIGIZI that serve primarily a low-income population.  

“Xcel Energy is thrilled to see the MIGIZI solar array go into operation using our Solar*Rewards program,” said Nicholas Martin, Director of Strategic Outreach & Advocacy. “This project is a microcosm of our broader efforts to support equitable access to renewable energy, help our communities rebuild and create pathways to clean energy careers for Native and other underserved communities.”  

Xcel Energy has supported MIGIZI since 2013 on the Native Academy, an after-school and summer program that served over 300 middle and high school students in South Minneapolis, and continues to support Indigenous Pathways, a career training program for American Indian youth. More recently, Xcel Energy worked with Native Sun Community Power Development on two U.S. Department of Energy-funded projects supporting electric vehicle planning and infrastructure on Tribal Nations.