Alternative Energy/Wind Power (Gaa-Noodin-oke)
The Great Wind is a constant in our lives as Anishinaabeg people. Indeed, Ningaabii’anong Noodin, the West Wind, is a part of our oldest history.
We are fully aware of the impact of coal-fired power plants on our lakes. Almost every lake on our reservation already has a fish consumption advisory on it, largely from mercury and heavy metals. The largest point of origin being coal fired power plants and incinerators. Similarly we are aware of the environmental injustices of both nuclear power and huge dam projects. Our relatives both to the south and north are already devastated by these bad energy choices. On the other side are the alternatives: wind and solar.
Our reservation’s western region has a class four wind potential. As well, we sit on the cusp of the Great Plains, considered to be the Saudi Arabia of Wind Power by most energy analysts. Indeed some 28 tribes are working specifically on the issues of alternative energy generation, distribution, and energy justice within this region.
Our organization has done the same. In 2002, we erected our first wind generator, a Jacobs’s 20kw wind turbine, which is the first we hope, of many small wind generators, and of perhaps a larger initiative in the western portion of the reservation. Based on the idea that local people can make a differene, the White Earth Land Recovery Project, local farmers and the White Earth Tribal Council are looking at the environmental, cultural and economic options posed in energy choices.
Most of the energy supplied to the White Earth Reservation comes from coal. In northern Minnesota we see the rail cars carrying thousands of tons of coal through the area daily and each car on those trains represents air pollution, thousands of gallons of polluted water and a deep hole in the earth where the coal was extracted from. Once the coal is burned, its toxins end up in our lakes and rivers with a majority of the lakes in Minnesota and specifically on the White Earth Reservation presently haing fish consumption advisories on them for heavy metals and mercury. The two largest sources of these pollutants are coal-fired power plants and incinerators. Coal also causes global warming and climate change. Carbon dioxide is the major cause of global climate change. In the past two-hundred years, the amount of carbon dioxide gases in our atmosphere has grown by almost one-third. That is more than in the past twenty million years. As well, the earth’s snow cover has diminished by 10 percent since the late 1960’s and since the 1990’s the thickness of the Arctic sea ice from late summer to early autumn has diminished by 40 percent. As a result of these ice melts, the sea level is on the rise and waterborne and airborne diseases are exploding, as evidenced by the West Nile virus that continues to spread east.
Indian tribes across the country have begun developing and operating public utilities including electrical power generation and distribution systems. U.S. Federal laws were shaped to address issues outside of Indian Country. Tribes and Indian organizations are developing appropriate controls and oversight for Tribal energy self-sufficiency on the White Earth has the potential to develop several different scenarios in wind production.
In 1996, the White Earth Land Recovery Project began analysis of wind energy potential for the White Earth Reservation by working with PlainState Energy Associates and a grant from the MN Department of Environmental Quality. This work set the foundation for the first wind initiative on White Earth, our Jacobs 20kw wind turbine placed on a tribal members farm near Waubun, MN.
The work for wind on White Earth is accompanied by national work by organizations like Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (ICOUP) a confederation of 23 tribes located primarily in the Great Plains region, including most Dakota, Cheyenne and other reservations in the region. In all, these tribes have an estimated capacity of 350 gigawatts of wind energy potential with primarily class four and five wind energy generation. Through ICOUP’s work, the Rosebud Sioux Wind Turbine project, a 750 kW wind turbine came into operation in 2003. This turbine, combined with a national strategy to develop tribal energy policy in relationship to the Western Area Power Administration grid (WAPA), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission policy and the markets in “green tags” set a path for future wind development. Over the past three years, new tribal initiatives in wind have emerged and are continuing to develop in areas such as the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the Saginaw Chippewa Reservation in Michigan, the Cheyenne River, Lower Brule and a host of other tribal communities. ICOUP has proposed to bring 80 megawatts of wind power on line in the next six years, incorporating eight separate Dakota and Lakota reservations, with many of these communities like the White Earth Reservation, representing the most economically stricken communities in the country, yet having vast wind energy potential.
At White Earth, we are developing a local wind initiative, linking both with national models for tribal wind development and developing relationships and capacity with local tribal governments, municipalities, rural electrical cooperatives, utilities and farmers on the reservation and in the region. This integrated program includes a tribal initiative aimed at reducing tribal energy consumption through conservation, renewables and other strategies, development of individual wind and solar projects for the area and development of both regional and tribal wind capacity.
For more information about our Alternative Energy programs, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org