Minobimaadiziwin: 'The Good Life' meets solar

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February 11, 2021
Tessa is wearing a yellow hard hat and orange safety vest. She's posing in front of a ground-mount solar array on a cloudy day.

Tessa McLean, a Anishinaabe Tribal member from Pinaymootang First Nation, recounts her experience as a solar trainee with GRID's Tribal Program.

Boozhoo! Hello GRID followers and supporters,

I am writing to you today from the beautiful Cheyenne and Arapaho territory of Denver, Colorado. My name is Tessa McLean, I am Anishinaabe from Pinaymootang First Nation, and I recently completed GRID Tribal’s SETO solar training and a solar installation project. 

I was inspired to apply to the GRID training because I care about renewable energy, sustainability and energy self-determination. The idea of learning the basics of solar and doing hands-on solar installation contributed to my idea of minobimaadiziwin - an Ojibwe term for ‘the good life.’ The good life is this wonderful philosophy and I translate it to having coffee in your cup, the sun shining on your face, having a home with warmth, having access to affordable, renewable energy; the good life is gratitude, humility, love, and solar!

I was selected to receive solar installation and OSHA-10 training with GRID. OSHA training is pivotal in this industry because the guidelines it provides intend to keep us all safe. After completing online training and gaining my OSHA-10 certification, I put my training into use for an installation project in Boulder, Colorado. The cherry on top of all this was completing my training and doing the installation with individuals from all over Turtle Island. We used the OSHA training every day on site for everything from proper ladder use to wearing personal protective equipment.

Wildfire smoke billows above racking for a ground-mount solar array. A small bit of blue skies are visible.
During the 628-kilowatt installation project, our work was outdoors. We worked Monday through Friday, under the burning sun, in the freezing northern wind, under the snowfalls, atop mud, underneath falling ash from the wildfires nearby, and in hot-cold-hot-cold temps. Despite all of the weather, I appreciated being able to work outside having previously held an office job. The location where we worked reminded me of being on the land. On the daily we saw a hawk, an eagle, a coyote, deer, bull snakes, tarantulas, and other bugs.

Overall, the project was a great experience. I am really proud of the work we did; the project will offset energy costs for low-income housing. Not only did we make an economic impact, but the work we did will keep giving back for generations to come.

I highly recommend working with GRID to anyone who is interested in solar or renewable energy, it might just be the best thing for you. It was for me! I shared photos on my social media so friends and family could see what our team completed. Everyone was proud and excited. I read messages from all over that said, “My community needs solar too,” or, “Come home and install here.” It shows that there is a need for renewable energy in our communities and we better get cracking. 

Trainees wearing safety vests and hard hats are working on a ground-mount solar array on a cold, snowy day.
Working in the solar industry doesn’t solely mean installing, it includes financing, policy, architecture, engineering, planning, and so much more. We all fit in solar. After my time with GRID, I accepted a position in community planning where I am excited to share my new skills and knowledge. My projects will include planning renewable energy projects. Increasing self-determination for our communities and Nations is very important to me and increasing energy independence has a big role in self-determination. I’m eager to continue on my journey with planning with a sight on energy issues and energy self-determination.

Chi miigwech - many thanks to GRID for all the work they do and for selecting me to be a part of this journey!