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Empowering Native Americans with government grants

Eight Native American tribes are pursuing feasibility studies for renewables projects on tribal lands with the help of $1.3 million in grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE). Four of the studies will investigate commercial scale wind projects.

This is the second round of grants the agency has awarded as a result of a 2002 solicitation. It gave 14 awards in September before it ran out of fiscal year 2002 funding to proffer grants to the remaining eight tribes. Expressing a commitment helping tribes develop clean energy options, energy secretary Spencer Abraham says: "These projects encourage tribal self-sufficiency, help create jobs, improve our environmental quality and make our nation more secure."

The agency began giving Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands grants in 1994, although there was a hiatus in funding in the mid-1990s, says Lizana Pierce of DOE. One of the early projects was the Rosebud Sioux 750 kW NEG Micon turbine dedicated recetnly at Mission, South Dakota. DOE closed two more solicitations at the end of April, but has not chosen those winners.

The four wind grants in the current round will finance studies by the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes in a remote area on the border of Nevada and Idaho, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation in Alaska, the Cherokee Nation in north-eastern Oklahoma, and the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, which will investigate a combined wind and pump-back hydroelectric project.

"This, Congress willing, is an ongoing process," Pierce says. "Under future solicitations, tribes can ask for implementation funds." That will require the tribes to contribute at least 20% of the development and construction costs.

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