South Dakota tribes unite to develop mega wind farm

Robin Whitlock Monday, 01 July 2013

No less than six Sioux tribes have come together to form a Multi-Tribal Power Authority in order to develop multiple wind projects on tribal lands

South Dakota tribes unite to develop mega wind farm

The Cheyenne River Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Oglala Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate and Yankton Sioux have united to develop the Sioux Wind Project in South Dakota. If successful, the project could generate more wind energy than all the wind farms constructed so far across the state and would also be one of the largest wind projects in the world.

Tribal lands cover around 16 percent of South Dakota and the project could therefore generate as much as 58GW of wind energy. The plan is supported by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors alongside Arent Fox and other concerns and the initial momentum is aimed at generating 2GW of renewable energy. This could potentially generate enough renewable power to supply a large city such as Denver, Colorado, for up to 20 years. Once the tribes have found a company to purchase the energy and provide access to transmission lines the project could receive up to $3 billion funding from tribal economic development (TED) bonds, administered by the Multi-Tribal Power Authority (MTPA). Start-up costs will be funded by private grants and investments with development costs met by authority bonds as an alternative to reliance on federal tax credits.

“This has been a dream for many of our member tribes” said Bob Gough, secretary of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (COUP, “and right now we have the sense that while we’ve been pushing for a long time, we’ve finally got someone on the other side who can pull. There’s an urgency for clean, carbon-free power to take its place in the American energy mix. We’re not driven by the closing date of the production tax credit, so we’re taking time to study this.”

According to Mr Gough the overall cost of the project will depend on whether new transmission lines need to be constructed, something that could cost $3 billion and take up to 10 years to complete. Plans for renewable energy projects on tribal lands first became viable following the 1992 Federal Energy Policy Act which enabled potential renewable energy development in tribal areas. The aim is to construct wind farms on six separate reservations leading to a possible interconnected network of wind farms. This could also encourage other tribes in the US to join in.

“This has exciting implications for the sustainability of the environment and for the self-sufficiency of one of the country’s most resilient but underserved communities,” Mr Gough added, in an op-ed article for  the Clinton Global Initiative. “We are honored to have this opportunity to pursue our sacred trust as responsible stewards of the earth, not only on the Mother Land of our tribes, but also as members of the global community.”

Previous projects failed because of an inability to secure a fair agreement for the sale of renewable power as well as an inability to utilize the production tax credit. A power purchase agreement would enable the project to transmit the generated power throughout the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) serving South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska

At present the tribes are engaging in a feasibility and planning process which they hope will lead to the formation of the MTPA in order to develop the project further.

Further information:

Sioux Wind Rally

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Start-up costs will be funded by private grants and investments with development costs met by authority bonds as an alternative to reliance on federal tax credits.

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