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Tribal Climate and Energy Resources & Opportunities

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Using Green Power to Protect the Environment, Save Money – Forest County Potawatomi Community (Crandon, Wisconsin)

After completing an energy audit and undertaking energy efficiency initiatives, this EPA Green Power Partner purchased renewable energy credits and installed a 132-panel solar array on an administrative building in Milwaukee. In 2013, the Forest County Potawatomi Community (FCPC) plans to complete construction of an anaerobic digester at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino, with a goal of offsetting 30 percent of the energy costs for the FCPC.

In total, the FCPC uses 100 percent renewable energy, either purchased or from onsite resources, for their electricity needs.


Learn from Other Tribes

The Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse (TEEIC) website hosts a database of tribal case studies.

Solar

Wind

Biomass

Geothermal

Hydropower

The U.S. Department of Energy lists renewable energy projects funded by the Tribal Energy Program.

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy and Tribes 
There is great potential to develop clean, renewable energy resources on tribal lands. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates (PDF) (56 pp, 4.4M, About PDF) that tribal lands comprise 2% of U.S. land but contain 5% of all U.S. renewable energy resources. Many tribal lands are well-situated to meet their own energy needs as well as contribute to regional and national demand for renewable energy.

Read on to learn about programs, guidance, case studies and financing to support energy and energy infrastructure development on tribal lands.

Tribal Benefits of Renewable Energy
Investing in renewable energy technologies could provide many benefits for tribes:

  • Economic - Renewable energy infrastructure can help protect communities from fluctuations in both the supply and price of conventional energy sources, build tribal economic stability through a steady revenue stream, and contribute to tribal energy security and self-determination by providing sustainable energy for tribal needs.
  • Employment and Education - Local energy production or utility-scale facilities can create new jobs in manufacturing, operations, and maintenance. Installing wind turbines, solar heaters, and solar panels in the community provides opportunities for hands-on education and training for skilled technical careers.
  • Health and Environment - Renewable energy produces few air pollutants and can help improve local air quality and people’s health and quality of life, all while causing minimal disruption to the environment.
  • Housing and Community Resources - Onsite renewable power can provide electricity in rural areas underserved by the existing power grid, and contribute to tribal energy self-sufficiency.
  • Climate Change and Extreme Weather - Developing local renewable energy resources improves community resilience to climate change impacts and extreme weather disruptions.

Renewable Energy Opportunities
While there are many renewable energy sources for tribes to pursue, each one comes with trade-offs and potential environmental and aesthetic impacts. Each community will have to weigh the value of clean local energy against the potential land and water impacts caused by new renewable energy sources.

  • Solar (photovoltaic, solar thermal) – Solar technologies can be scaled to provide onsite energy for homes, buildings or large installations that provide energy for the utility grid.
  • Wind – Wind power can be produced by a single stand-alone turbine, a small-scale system that is connected to an existing power grid, or a utility-scale wind farm comprised of hundreds to thousands of turbines.
  • HydropowerHydropower plants convert the energy of moving water to electricity. Large- and small-scale hydropower technologies can produce energy, supply water, and control flooding.
  • Biomass and Biofuels – Utility-scale and small-scale distributed biomass power projects can be powered by locally-available, sustainably-produced feedstocks (animal and municipal solid wastes, wood or crop residues, or crops used to produce energy), and can transmit electricity across a large area or for a single home or small community. Biomass can also be converted to biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol is produced by fermentation from crops like corn, sorghum, and sugar cane and used as gasoline. Biodiesel is produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats, mostly from restaurants. Many tribes are using biodiesel to fuel tribal fleets.
  • Geothermal Geothermal energy is heat from the earth that can be used to heat and cool homes or to run utility-scale power plants. It can also be used to heat greenhouses and to dry crops. Most of the U.S. geothermal potential is in the western states where tribal populations are also concentrated.

Other Resources
Programs

  • U.S. Department of Energy’s Tribal Energy Program provides financial and technical assistance for tribes to evaluate and develop renewable energy resources and reduce energy consumption. The website provides information about funding opportunities, existing projects, education and training, and technical assistance. 
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development helps Indian communities gain economic self-sufficiency through the development of their energy and mineral resources.
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Renewable Energy Opportunities website is a portal for tribes to present opportunities for industries to build new facilities on tribal lands.
  • U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Power for Native Americans website provides resources and information for Native Americans and Native Alaskan villages to develop commercial wind generation programs. 
  • ITEP’s Tribal Clean Energy Resource Center (TCERC) is a multi-disciplinary collaborative that helps tribal professionals develop expertise and capacity in the clean and renewable energy fields, and advances the development of clean and renewable energy sources on tribal lands. 
  • EPA’s Green Power Partnership Program provides technical and communications assistance and recognition opportunities to organizations that use renewable energy to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use.
  • Renewable Energy Alaska Project (REAP) is a coalition of entities interested in developing Alaska’s renewable energy sources.
  • Lakota Solar Enterprises is the first Native American-owned and operated renewable energy company. It offers jobs training and manufactures solar heating systems.
  • Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, an offshoot of Lakota Solar Enterprises, is an educational facility where tribes from all over the nation can receive hands-on training on renewable energy applications from fellow Native American trainers.
  • Solar Energy International is a nonprofit educational organization that helps others use renewable energy resources and sustainable building technologies through training and technical assistance.

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