Intertribal wind project could mean big things for South Dakota - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Intertribal wind project could mean big things for South Dakota

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It's domestically sourced, it can't be depleted and it creates no air pollution.

According to Bob Gough of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, if fully developed, South Dakota has the wind energy capabilities to meet 75% of the nation's energy needs.

However, our state's wind energy potential has been largely untapped.

Now, with the backing of the Clinton Global Initiative, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Arent Fox and other green energy proponents, six South Dakota Tribes are working together toward a more independent, prosperous tomorrow. 

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and Yankton Sioux Tribe are uniting to create the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority. 

"When this project is completed, it's so large that South Dakota will go from second or third in this country, as far as base load electrical generating capacity, to first," former President Bill Clinton announced June 15.

It's a wind farm project that will unite the six Tribes for a common purpose: generating much-needed money for Tribal communities and increasing domestic energy independence.

"That's the exciting thing about it. It's the first time any of our tribes have ever come together on a project of this magnitude. We joke that the last time the Tribes came together was Little Big Horn," said Oglala Sioux Tribe Economic Development Manager Lyle Jack.

"As many people know, there's tremendous renewable energy resources throughout Indian Country. Particularly on a lot of the Reservations in South Dakota," said Rosebud Economic Development Corporation CEO Wizipan Little Elk. 

In the past, wind farm development has been difficult for Native American communities.

"Because of the way the federal regulatory system is designed, and the way the energy systems are designed, it actually creates disincentives for wind energy development. It's a lot cheaper in many instances to purchase your power from coal or nuclear or non-renewable sources," said Little Elk.

This will soon change, thanks in part to the efforts of former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan.

"Senator Dorgan says 'What if we put all the tribes together and we come together and try to form a power authority. You know, instead of playing with 100 megawatts, 200 megawatts, let's shoot for the moon,'" said Jack.

Tribal leaders plan to finance the project through private grants, investments and the sale of bonds.

"How we finance it is a very new way. We're going to finance this thing through the sale of bonds. Municipality bonds, power bonds. Low interest. We're working with a group called the LIATI Group – they're based in New York and they're going to set this up for us. And we're going to sell these bonds to the tune of $1.5 billion dollars," said Jack.

While this project is in its beginning stages, momentum is strong, and work is happening behind the scenes every day to make it a reality.  A reality that could change the future of the state's business climate - and the state of South Dakota's tribal communities.

"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 will allow them to finally, to have a non-government, ready-cash source that will enable them to build a whole different economic future for their children and the future of our country," said Clinton. 

Wednesday, Oglala Sioux Tribe Economic Development leaders told KSFY News that through weekly conference calls, they're working with the other tribes on the governance portion of the new Oceti Sakowin Power Authority.

The group recently sent in an application for financing, and should have an update on the project within the next couple of weeks.

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