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South Dakota Sioux lay a road map -- First of 80 MW of disgen

The Sicangu Lakota Sioux Tribe have dedicated a single 750 kW NEG Micon wind turbine on the tribe's Rosebud Reservation near Mission in south central South Dakota after announcing the project nearly three years ago (Windpower Monthly, May 2001). As the nation's first Native American owned commercial scale wind turbine, the total project, including planning, engineering and financing, took eight years, says Robert Gough, commissioner of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Utility Commission and secretary of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy.

As a pioneering project, adds Gough, all the years of development work were deliberate and the result is a plan for an additional 80 MW in wind projects spread across eight wind-rich Native American reservations in North and South Dakota by 2005.

"We purposely took this project through as many hoops as possible," Gough says. "The plan created a path for other tribes and is now a roadmap for future tribal wind development." The turbine is on land in Mission next to a tribal casino.

Splitting the 80 MW among eight locations would keep the overall cost down if development was co-ordinated, Gough says, and it would also give each tribe a "toehold on the transmission grid as a clean energy generator." While 80 MW would have a large impact on the region's constrained transmission system, he adds, 10 MW in distributed locations could easily be absorbed.

The first

Along the way, the Rosebud Tribe bagged a number of firsts. The Mission project is the first commercial scale wind project owned by a tribe on a reservation. It is the first non-public utility or municipal utility project financed by the Rural Utilities Service (once known as the Rural Electrification Administration), and it is the first wind project named by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an Environmental Justice Revitalisation Demonstration project.

While not a financial award, the Environmental Justice designation, one of 15 given by the agency this year, paves the way for the tribes to partner with federal agencies which are required to buy 2.5% of their energy from renewable resources by 2005. Environmental Justice projects are designated to help remedy oversights of low income groups or groups close to environmental degradation, the EPA says.

Partners in the Mission turbine project are the Department of Energy and Rural Utilities Service. DisGen Inc provided development services. The Western Area Power Administration provided transmission and Ellsworth Air Force Base provided a revenue stream when it guaranteed it would buy 60% of the turbine's electricity output as well as 60% of its green tags for at least the next four years. NativeEnergy Inc bought green tags for the next 25 years and paid the tribe the present value of the purchase, which helped the tribe buy down the cost of the turbine, says Gough.

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