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DECEMBER 3, 2010 • ISSUE 104

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The village of Angoon

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Mr. Gamble and Mr. Gongwer prepare materials on the mainland before they ship them off on a 6-hour ferry ride to the island

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Robbie Gongwer, Ashley Smith, and Dan Lesh from SEACC, South East Alaska Conservation Consortium, mount the first solar panels in Angoon

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Mr. Van Beek and Mr. Gamble prepare the roof for the solar hot water panels

Photos by Micah Salaberrios for Tidal Wave Group

Team from MUM Installs Renewable Energy in Remote Alaskan Village

Several current and former MUM students and Sustainable Living faculty member Lonnie Gamble spent September in the small Alaskan village of Angoon on Admiralty Island installing sustainable energy technology as part of a project to help indigenous Alaskans deal with the crushing energy costs.

Mr. Gamble, Sustainable Living alumni Troy Van Beek and Robbie Gongwer, assisted by students Ashley Smith and Micah Salaberrios, installed solar energy panels, a solar hot water system, monitoring equipment, and energy-efficient fixtures such as LED bulbs on a demonstration home as well as a wind turbine on a school. They also worked on weatherization in order to minimize energy loss.

“It’s a great opportunity to export knowledge that we learned in the Sustainable Living program to a location where the energy costs are staggering,” said Mr. Gongwer, Program Developer, Sustainable Living Department.

In addition, Micah Salaberrios and Mr. Gongwer are collaborating on a documentary. Ashley Smith did a summer internship in the village working with the village business department on the implementation and documentation of the project and educating residents about renewable energy.

Mr. Gamble and MUM students had previously visited the island to investigate possible collaborations with the University on green initiatives and community development. Subsequently, Andrei Chakine, the manager of business and economic development for the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska, visited MUM. Mr. Chakine was impressed with the sustainability initiatives on campus and invited the University to install renewable energy systems. Mr. Chakine has also learned the Transcendental Meditation® technique.

“No other university, to my knowledge, offers such a unique and effective program on sustainable living with so many hands-on activities incorporated into the curriculum,” said Mr. Chakine. “Now that I had a chance to work with Professor Gamble and his students I can say I am thoroughly impressed with MUM’s programs, students, and faculty. The project has changed many hearts and minds in Alaska about renewable energy; it gave hope.”

The tribes are open to continued cooperation with MUM and have applied for state and federal grants to fund the next phase, which entails having renewable energy systems and energy efficiency replace fossil fuels in powering the villages. A long-term project like this could provide many MUM students the opportunity to do internships and learn about the rich culture and traditions of the tribes. “We also want to show students that MUM alumni are taking sustainability leadership roles and creating jobs and opportunities for students to get involved,” said Mr. Gongwer.

Click here to watch a preview of the upcoming documentary about the project.

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