United States

United States

Sustainable symbols of sovereignty -- Indian casino and wind power

The Sicangu Lakota Sioux Tribe in South Dakota is erecting a utility scale wind turbine as a way to identify all the bureaucratic steps it and 11 other North and South Dakota reservations would have to take when building larger projects. The utility commission for the tribe is building the 750 kW unit next to a tribal casino. Utility commissioner Jack Davey says both the turbine and the casino are symbols for a sustainable homeland economy.

A South Dakota Native American Indian tribe is erecting a utility scale wind turbine as a way to identify all the bureaucratic steps it and 11 other North and South Dakota reservations would have to take when building larger projects. The utility commission for the Sicangu Lakota Sioux Tribe on the Rosebud Reservation in Mission is building the 750 kW NEG Micon unit next to a tribal casino.

Utility commissioner Jack Davey says both the turbine and the casino are symbols for a sustainable homeland economy. "We as Native Americans talk a lot about our sovereignty, but we are not sovereign until the day we have economic independence," says Davey.

One in 20 reservation households in South Dakota are without electricity, but power purchases the tribe has been making since January from the Western Area Power Authority is changing that, and wind power could make further contributions.

Tribal land potential

According to Robert Gough, attorney for the tribe's utility commission, wind potential on tribal lands in both North and South Dakota is enormous, but he believes it would be reasonable in the near future for each reservation to build wind farms of 10-50 MW in size.

The tribe's Ta Tanka Energy Services LLC was formed to develop wind power on the Rosebud Reservation. It has identified two sites north of Mission and near St Francis which total about 30 MW in capacity. The Rosebud Sioux created a utilities commission nearly 20 years ago to explore the possibility of controlling its own energy production, but the commission did not get off the mark until the mid-1990s. The utility is under formation now, but issues are still unresolved of who will buy the wind power and how can it be moved through the transmission system, Gough says.

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