Friday, June 21, 2013

Tribes team up for wind power

Former President Clinton also part of effort to promote energy, investment for reservations
Brandon Sazue says winds of opportunity are blowing over South Dakota reservations.
The chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe is one of six tribal leaders who have joined forces with each other and with former President Bill Clinton to promote an ambitious wind power project on South Dakota reservations.
The aim of Sioux Wind is to build hundreds of wind turbines on tribal land across the state at a cost of up to $3 billion, generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity and transmitting it to major cities. If it all works out, tribes get cheap power and income they can use to meet other needs.
“It’ll have a big impact,” Sazue said. Between bolstering inter-tribal cooperating, improving their revenues and lowering electric bills, “everything’s all good,” he said.
Clinton was even more effusive, sharing the stage last week in Chicago with tribal leaders such as Oglala Sioux Tribe president Bryan Brewer at an event for his nonprofit, the Clinton Global Initiative.
“The potential of this is staggering,” Clinton said. “This is an amazing thing, and if it works, there are a lot of other tribal lands and a lot of other tribes out there who will be able to take this and make their contribution to our country’s future in a way that enables them finally to have a nongovernment-ready cash source that will enable them to build a whole different economic future for their children and for the future of our country.”
But Clinton’s “if it works” could end up being the key phrase for the whole idea. Building all those wind turbines is costly, and building transmission lines to get that power to Minneapolis and Chicago could cost even more. Despite backing from Clinton and an array of big entities, the Sioux Wind project could meet the same sorry fate as previous attempts to harness tribal wind.
“When anybody says they’re going to build a wind project in South Dakota and it’s more than a gigawatt, I have to chuckle,” said Steve Wegman, an analyst for the South Dakota Renewable Energy Association. “You know how many times we’ve been down this road? A lot. It’s a nice dream, but that’s not how reality is done.”