Famous polar explorer and life-long educator Will Steger spends much of his time these days building a legacy outside Ely, Minnesota. “For the past 19 years I’ve been working on this education center,” Will says as he weaves his way between stacks of lumber, crates of tile, and various machinery being put to use in erecting the most impressive structure in the region. “The hardest decision I ever made was to put a road in. But, no way! was I bringing in an electric line.”

Self-sufficiency is a code he and others here have lived by for 4 decades. But as the center nears completion in the next year, the need for energy cannot be ignored. “People from the cities won’t come up here without some of the basic amenities they are used to, such as flush toilets and electric lights. The plan has always included renewable energy such as solar, but exactly how it would be done had not yet been determined.

Enter Team Sundial. Owner Jon Kramer has known Will for many years and they both share the same vision of teaching people about the Earth and respect for the environment. “I met Will while I was living in Grand Marais back in the early 80’s, just prior to his famous arctic expeditions” Jon says. “Recently he invited me up to his Homestead to show me what he’s been up to. I was blown away by what he’s done!” The plan impressed Jon and he dove in with both feet. “There’s nothing more important than education and whatever we can do to help Will in this vital message we must do. It is our responsibility.”

Over the past summer the Sundial team donated and installed a pole-mounted PV system at the Homestead to test the performance of a new technology in preparation for a much larger installation next year. The installation went well and so far the testing has exceeded expectations. “The PV system is a real luxury,” Will said “plenty of power and silent as sunshine.”

Will Steger with Sundial owner Jon Kramer (left) and General Manager Wayne LaForge (middle)

DSC_1618

Jon teaches an off-grid class at the battery shed.

The array overlooks the lake at Will’s Homestead.

Testing the pole mounting head.

Team Leader Tom Jandric hauls in a solar panel to install on the pole.

Jon and Tom bolting down the panels.