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Oglala Sioux Tribe pushes forward on wind power

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. – On May 27, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council voted to accept the charter of the Oglala Sioux Tribe Renewable Energy Development Authority. This new authority will oversee community and commercial scale renewable energy development on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The authority will require that this development is transparent, timely, equitable and environmentally sound. It will also ensure that the greatest possible financial benefits are retained by the tribe.

The authority’s initial focus is the development of commercial scale wind power, and it has already identified a number of large sites with outstanding Class 5 winds. The total wind power potential is several hundred megawatts, enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes and produce millions of dollars in annual revenues to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The authority will assess the capabilities of several potential wind power development partners and select projects that will allow the greatest levels of ownership and overall economic benefit while adhering to the highest principles of environmental stewardship and cultural resource protection.

The authority has been created through the leadership of David T. Mills, director of the tribe’s Office of Economic Development. His office will play a strong role in overseeing and complementing the efforts of the authority, which intends to test new approaches to streamlining permitting and regulatory issues by establishing a Tribal Energy Resources Agreement with the BIA. Lyle Jack, in this office, serves on the National Tribal Energy Policy Advisory Committee.

The original concept for this authority was brought to Mills by Dr. Stephen L. Gomes, founder of Gomes and Company. He assembled a group of wind energy experts, most of whom provided their services on a pro bono basis, to help define a development plan and his firm then completed a pre-feasibility study. Members of this advisory group included: Shawn Lawlor of RamGen Corporation; James Parrish, formerly with Duke Energy; Jack Danforth, utility company CEO; Dana Dogterom, TwoDot Wind LLC; and Dr. Stuart Cowan, Autopoiesis LLC, who was the lead pre-feasibility study manager.

Cowan, who has extensive experience with securing capital and expertise for renewable energy, real estate and ecological restoration projects, has agreed to serve as the interim CEO for the authority, which has already obtained $250,000 in seed funding from a federal grant, and plans to match that total several times over with foundation grants, in-kind contributions of professional services and equipment, and other sources. The authority will also be in a position to ensure its fair share of Federal Renewable Energy Tax Credits, sales of green tags for clean energy, and additional proposed federal incentives for renewable energy development.

The authority is working to create a new model of tribally controlled, large-scale renewable energy development that can be widely applicable in Indian country, and is an active member of newly-formed Wind Energy Tribes United. The authority welcomes contact with other tribes undertaking similar initiatives and with potential sources of financial or other support for its activities.