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United States

Red green power for sustainable economy

Native American tribes in the Dakotas say they are on the threshold of a new red variety of green power that could combine the benefits of local hydropower with wind turbines to create a new hybrid resource. Speaking at the AWEA conference, Robert Gough of the InterTribal Council on Utility Policy, says South Dakota tribes are looking for a sustainable homeland economy and that tribal lands contain some of the windiest sections of the territory. Native Americans are ten times more likely not to have electricity in their homes than their white counterparts in the Dakotas, Gough says, and tribes are looking to renewables to help get electricity into those homes. "Despite North Dakota being termed America's Saudi Arabia of wind power, South Dakota Indian reservations may actually have more wind," Gough says. He estimates the wind potential at between 145 and 290 gigawatts, but the transmission system, although it has fewer constraints than its northern neighbour, is built to handle only the existing 2000 MW of hydro generation. Gough's solution is to combine the two into a hybrid resource. "Wind is intermittent: hydro is on demand. There is more wind in the winter when there is less hydro available. Each resource can fill the valleys," he says. Gough says the tribes are amenable for wind turbines to be installed on their lands now, but that it will take federal government leadership to get something going with the US Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the dams, and the Western Area Power Administration, which owns the transmission.

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