Northland Solar Commons Living Lab

The Northland Solar Commons Living Lab is an initiative of the Center for Social Research@UMD, the Lake Superior Living Labs Network (LSLLN), and the Solar Commons Research Project@Minnesota Design Center.   With our Canadian and US partners—at the center of which is the solar manufacturing firm Heliene, Inc. which has factories in Mt. Iron, MN and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario—we are applying the Solar Commons Community Trust Ownership Model to serve the interests of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa’s Food Sovereignty Group.   Our aim is to advance the design of peer-governed solar energy-generated trust funds working for reparative justice in our world.  To be equitable and democratic, the 21st energy transition will need new and diverse ownership models so the benefits of renewable energy can creatively serve the needs of local communities.  Heliene, Inc is the only solar manufacturing facility in the state of Minnesota.  We are honored to partner with Heliene and the BFFSG to demonstrate how peer-governed, social wealth benefits of solar energy can work over the 25 year life of the solar technology to support local community needs.  At UMD, we are working with Prof. Doug Thompson (Attorney and American Indian Studies & Tribal Government Programs); and with students and faculty in Anthropology and Computer Science.  In addition to building a 500kW Solar Commons solar array with Heliene and co-designing the peer-governed Solar Commons trust with BFFSG, our researchers will create iterable tools—legal templates, digital dashboards, and standards– that will allow Solar Commons to flourish in the US and Canada.  Contact the PI of the Northland SC Living Lab, Prof. Kathryn Milun, at