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Rosebud Sioux wind turbine

Native Wind Projects

The Indian tribes of the North and South Dakota and Nebraska are collaborating on an unprecedented project to develop the massive wind resources of the northern Great Plains. Eight separate tribes are all moving ahead with plans to develop the first large-scale Native owned and operated wind farms in the country. The short-term goal is 80 megawatts of wind-produced electricity.

Ft Berthold Wind TurbineCongratulations ! The 65 KW wind turbine at Fort Berthold is finished. A small scale wind demonstration project has been completed on the Fort Berthold, North Dakota reservation. It's estimated that Fort Berthold has 17,000,000 kWh of wind energy potential.

Intertribal COUP
In 1994, the tribes formed the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy (COUP) to navigate the complex legal issues around power sales, educate political leaders, and organize financing for the projects.
Visit the COUP site.


arrowA plan for each COUP reservation
Each reservation is proceeding at its own pace; while wind turbine projects are under construction in three areas, other reservations are collecting data from anemometers and completing feasibility studies. In every case, the massive wind potential of these areas in the Dakotas is clear.

Rosebud, up and running
The Rosebud Sioux tribe is the first to get electricity from wind online, pictured above. In April of 2003, the first Native American owned and operated wind turbine went into service, providing Rosebud with 750 kW of energy. The second phase of the Rosebud project is the 30MW St. Francis wind farm, scheduled for construction in 2006. This will be the first large-scale Native American owned and operated wind farm in the country.

Connecting Native Wind power to the federal grid
The reservations that belong to COUP have identified wind sites near the giant federal electricity grid, operated by the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). This will avoid the cost of building expensive transmission lines. WAPA was originally built to carry hydropower from dams on the Missouri river, but recent droughts have slowed the Missouri to a trickle. As a result, WAPA has replaced renewable hydropower with lignite – a soft coal that produces high amounts of carbon dioxide pollution. The tribes are negotiating to connect up to the WAPA grid and replace coal power with wind-generated electricity. Surprisingly, wind developers face heavy opposition when it comes to changing the energy habits of traditional utilities and electric cooperatives.

The appointment of Tim Meeks as the new WAPA administrator as of January 2007 is good new for wind development on tribal lands. Meeks cited improved relationships with the tribes as one of his top priorities.
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In development:

Pine Ridge: 65 KW wind turbine will be constructed to provide power for the KILI-FM radio station. See the brochure on Pine Ridge Wind Power. PDF

Flandreau Santee Sioux: 750 KW wind turbine will power the tribal casino.

Rosebud: 30MW project.

South Dakota Buffalo




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