KILI Radio, the first independent Native-owned and -operated reservation radio station, has announced that it is now successfully using a wind turbine to generate up to 15 percent of its electricity.
“As stewards of Mother Earth, we are walking our talk in terms of using renewable clean energy to meet our power needs, “ said Bill Means, President of the KILI board of directors and member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe.
The original vision of the station included a 100 percent energy self-sufficient organization using clean renewable energy. Next year the station’s boards of directors hope to also have a solar array in place that will increase self-generated energy, making it up to 30 percent of the total power used.
The 100,000-watt station located in Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Reservation went on the air in 1983 and represents a true grassroots organization, according to Means.
“In 1973, the American Indian Movement, AIM, surveyed the community about the types of projects they would like to see developed,” Means said. “A radio station was one of the top requests.”
It took ten years to complete the station because the community was committed to maintaining financial independence from the tribe, Means said.
“The station was built using 100 percent volunteer labor,” he noted.
The commitment to independence demonstrates the spirit of dedication to community self-determination by KILI staff and the board of directors. Means envisions inspiring others within the reservation and beyond to organize and produce green energy for their own use.
He anticipates that KILI’s combined wind and solar projects will eventually provide light to the 35 or so houses in the unincorporated community that surrounds the station. Community members will have the opportunity to purchase a portion of each of the solar panels that will in turn provide them with electricity.
“We want people to be a part of the project, to be owners rather than expecting the tribe to provide for them,” Means said. He noted that the tribe administers the federal Low Income Energy Home Assistance Program that is used to assist low-income households on the reservation to pay their non-renewable-energy bills.
KILI’s 10-kilowatt Bergey wind turbine is an example of “small or community wind” turbines.
“Unlike large wind farm projects that are costly and require a large infrastructure to maintain, small wind turbines represent a way for community members to see that they can generate their own energy without waiting for a big project to happen,” Means said.
KILI’s electricity bill averages about $2,000 per month. Money saved by using energy generated by the turbine will be used to fund much-needed improvements for the station, Means said.
Members of KILI’s board anticipate that in 20 years, the turbine will save the station a quarter of a million dollars in electricity costs.
KILI paid for the $100,000 turbine with support from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development and with help from partners including the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, the La Creek Electric Co-op, Alternative Energy Services and the Oglala Sioux tribe.
Means observed that Native-driven efforts to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota highlights the issue of climate change and the role that Native peoples can play in leading the way toward using renewable energy.
“A leader of the national Indian radio movement is now a leader in powering Indian radio with clean, renewable energy,” he said.