Patrick Spears, President, Intertribal COUPRobert Gough, Secretary, Intertribal COUP
The Intertribal Council On Utility Policy (COUP) and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe through its Tribal Utility Commission are the sponsors of this environmental justice wind power development plan. Since 1995, the Rosebud Sioux and other COUP Tribes have committed to the utility-scale development of tribal wind resources on the reservations in the northern Great Plains (estimated in the hundreds of gigawatts of potential), and the integration of large-scale distributed tribal wind generation with diminishing federal hydropower on the federal transmission grids.The COUP project team developed the COUP Plan that encourages tribally-owned development of significant distributed wind generation on Indian Reservations as a viable strategy for building sustainable homeland tribal economies: ? to address past and ongoing environmental injustices resulting from the building of the mainstem dams on the Missouri River to the detriment of Indian culture and reservation economies, from flooding of tribal lands to the impacts of climate change, and? to provide for future tribal economic, cultural, and community sustainability and capacity building based upon renewable energy generation of clean power to offset the burning of lignite coal, the most carbon-intensive source of electricity in United States. The COUP PLAN:Phase 1 (2003-2007): Single Turbine Projects, including installation of:? 1st Tribally owned 750 kW Turbine on Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, commissioned March 4th 2003, which produces some 2.4 million kWhs per year, keeping more than 25 million tons of lignite coal in the ground over its lifetime.? Tribally owned 65 kW Turbine on Ft. Berthold Reservation, commissioned Oct 4, 2005.? Tiospaye (Extended Family) owned 10 kW project on Pine Ridge, August, 2005.? Tribally owned 660 kW project planned for Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (2007)? KILI Radio station on Pine Ridge building a 50 kW turbine (2007). Phase 2 (2004-2007): Initial Multi-Megawatt Project with a 30 MW wind project on Rosebud Reservation. (December 2007)Phase 3 (2004-2008): EJ Demonstration Initial 80-240 MW: 10 to 20 MW wind projects on at least 8 Reservations (there are now 12 tribes in the COUP plan). Wind assessments are currently being completed.Phase 4 (2004-2010): Expand and Replicate this model on 20 or more Indian reservations across the Northern Great Plains with an average of 150 MW per reservation. Phase 5 (2006-2015): Develop some 3,000 MW on Great Plains Reservations in conjunction with the Western Governors goals of 30,000 MWs of clean energy by 2015.
The Intertribal COUP Plan has laid out a road map, from an indigenous people's perspective, for building an economy that is not based upon burning fossil fuels. The Rosebud project team asked permission from the Wind to build the structure, since the Wind is a gift from the Creator. There is great potential for acceptance of wind development within the cultural and community values of Indian People. The website www.nativewind.org has a one minute PSA that builds upon the anti-littering campaign of the 1970s, when America changed the way it thought about Keeping America Beautiful. This COUP PSA aims to broaden the acceptance of renewable energy at this very critical juncture of national energy insecurity, peak oil, and climate change.The COUP Plan looks to build tribal capacity in developing the resource assessments, and ultimately for tribal ownership, control and benefit of the projects to meet local energy needs, to export surplus power through the federal grid system, and to supplement and complement diminishing federal hydropower generation in order to reduce the need for carbon dioxide-intensive coal-fired power generation.The idea of tribes collaborating on a large-scale, energy generation project across the Great Plains can make integration of distributed wind on the grid a more compatible resource, and helps to bring economies of scale to tribal projects. The COUP Intertribal Wind Plan was designed to: ? Create significant Tribally owned generation for Reservation loads? Pool Tribal resources for economies of scale? Gain experience, share risk and build capacity? Ease initial interconnection into a constrained grid system? Build greater overall project capacity from distributed generation of 80 MW spread across two Great Plains states (The wind is always blowing somewhere on the Plains) ? Reduce opportunity costs for expansion from 10 or 20 MW to 150 MW? Demonstrates how to use ?Green Tags? to overcome grid constraints by separate sales? Help to meet Federal Green Power goals from Indian Country.
A large number of individuals will benefit from the new employment opportunities created as the wind projects are built out across the reservations. Currently, Intertribal COUP is preparing a training program to increase the relevant skill levels and knowledge base for tribal members to obtain the entry level jobs in foundation construction and turbine erection. COUP is also investigating opportunities for assembly and manufacturing of wind components on reservation. The implementation of the COUP Plan brings social recognition to Indian Country for its potential contribution to mitigating the impacts of global warming and building sustainable economies on reservations. The COUP Plan has identified and proven methods for tribes to economically finance wind projects (federal and foundation grants, federal and private loans, sale of green power, green tags, etc). Intertribal COUP has been involved in policy work with a variety of diverse partners - including the Western Governors Association, National Wind Coordinating Committee, and the National Congress of American Indians - to promote policy changes to break down the barriers to tribal renewable energy development. Finally, with regard to the environment: the Great Plains is undergoing a severe and persistent drought (9 years in the Missouri River headwaters) consistent with regional climate change forecasts. The entire existing energy generation system (hydropower, coal and nuclear) depends upon the consumption of thousands of gallons of water per minute for steam generating, cooling, etc. and the region's water resources are diminishing. Wind energy consumes virtually no water in the utility scale generation of electricity. In addition, it produces no acid rain or greenhouse gas emissions.
Through Intertribal COUP, tribal communities and governments have formed alliances with environmental and renewable energy groups from outside the region for their larger common interests. Collaboration with a variety of groups like High Plains SEED, Wind on the Wires and Powering The Plains, supporting renewable energy, and with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Action and other groups working on national and global issues of climate change. New alliances are in the works with regional agricultural interests in the area of bio-fuels and other sources of new energy. The COUP Plan, led by the long shadow cast by the flagship Rosebud ?Little Soldier? wind turbine project, has already had a significant effect regionally, nationally and globally. There are over 45 tribes through out the U.S. west that are currently assessing their wind resources, following in the wake of the Rosebud project. It has also been the subject of panel discussions at the Second Peoples of Color Environmental Justice Summit in Washington D.C., the United Nations Indigenous Peoples Forum in New York City, and at international Indigenous peoples summits in Canada and Argentina, and at several Kyoto COP meetings. Several tribal companies are emerging to facilitate wind energy development throughout western North America. Intertribal COUP has been in discussions with several international wind manufacturers of large- and small-scale wind turbines, seeking to bring manufacturing and strategic partnerships to bear on the development of the significant tribal resources. The Rosebud project significantly contributed to ?mainstreaming? clean energy simply by being built. For the eight years from the initial gathering of anemometer data on site, all the planning and hard work to make it happen seemed to be only hollow talk. But once the first tribally owned ?Little Soldier? turbine was commissioned, renewable energy got to be very real indeed. Communities concerned about such projects, went from just raising concerns and questions (which were addressed over the years), to wanting to know when their community would get such a project. The reality of American Indians demonstrating here and abroad that local indigenous communities can build and benefit from renewable energy is a powerful message around the world.
Tribes have greater political clout than individual farmers and ranchers to bring significant wind power into the region's energy mix. Tribal communities can meet their own energy needs on the reservation, providing a source of pride and self reliance. Tribes have been hit hard with the build-out of the system of hydropower dams, which is what makes tribal wind an environmental justice issue. Tribes along the Missouri River were flooded by the dams that were constructed to provide hydropower and flood control benefits for downstream communities. For Tribes, ?flood control? means that they are permanently flooded, while someone else is in control. Wind power provides a great sense of local community control to the next round of energy development across the Great Plains. The COUP Plan will allow a phased-in development of a aggregate of small projects distributed across six states. No single 10 or 20 MW project would have a sufficient economy of scale to be built. But a coordinated effort, involving 8 to 12 such projects, can help to get them built in a distributed fashion, reducing their impact on the grid relative to such a single large project (80 to 240 MW) being built in one place on the existing grid. Great Plains tribes hold large land bases. Many single reservations were larger than the state of Connecticut. While NIMBY issues arise in areas such as New England, tribes have very large back yards that sit in the best wind resource in the United States.
The large scale projects built under the COUP plan could provide tribes with revenues to help meet the clean energy needs of many of the off-grid tribal members on Indian Reservations. If you live on an Indian reservation you are 10 times more likely NOT to have electricity in your home, than anywhere else in the United States. Small wind is extremely expensive and since Indian Communities are the poorest in the nation, individuals would not likely be able to simply buy systems for themselves. Indian reservation communities building sustainable economies based upon renewable energy can provide models to other communities in the face of ?peak oil? and other pending issues flowing from the end of cheap energy. Wind development may represent the 21st Century ?Buffalo Economy? providing significant economic opportunities and benefits to Tribal communities. Greater utilization of utility-scale wind generation can significantly reduce water consumption in the region as well as the generation of GHG emissions. It can reduce the acidification and mercury pollution of downwind rivers and lakes, providing for safer and healthier fishing and agriculture, both of which are critical for regional sustainability.
While the use of wind energy is certainly not new, this project breaks new ground through the pooling of resources from dispersed, culturally similar communities to advance clean energy far more than any one of them could do individually, through the creation of economies of scale. At the same time, the project is helping to create a broader sense of community among Tribal groups; new employment opportunities and training programs for some of the poorest people in the United States; pride and self-reliance; and a sense of sovereignty and control over local resources and energy production. Tens of thousands of Tribal members throughout the United States can benefit directly from this project. Many others can benefit indirectly, through the health, economic and environmental impacts that result. And, as mentioned above, some of the best winds in the United States blow across Tribal lands, and they offer great potential for meeting a large share of U.S. electricity needs (see maps in attached document).Indian reservation communities building sustainable economies based upon renewable energy can provide models to other communities in the face of climate change, and ?peak oil? and other pending issues flowing from the end of the era of cheap energy. Further, the reality of American Indians demonstrating in the United States and abroad that local indigenous communities can build and benefit from renewable energy is a powerful message, not only for other indigenous communities, but for people around the world in general.