DOE To Help Tribes Advance Renewable Energy Projects

By NAW staff,  North American WindPower

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says it will continue to provide assistance to tribal governments to accelerate renewable energy deployment through its Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) program.

The DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will provide technical assistance for tribal clean energy development by supporting community- and commercial-scale renewable energy projects across the country. Since its December 2011 launch, the START Program has helped 21 tribal communities advance their renewable energy technology and infrastructure projects – from solar and wind to biofuels and energy efficiency.

START will assist tribal project team and tribal legal/finance specialists with reaching a late-stage development decision point or milestone to further a project toward development. Eligible applicants for this opportunity include Indian tribes, Alaska Native regional corporations and formally organized tribal energy resource development organizations. Applicants designated as White House Climate Action Champions will also benefit from the assistance of the START Program and be given preferential consideration.

Applications are due to the DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs by May 1. Up to five projects will be selected by late June 2015. Technical assistance will be provided from July of this year through August 2016, notes the DOE.

In addition to this opportunity, the DOE launched the third round of the Alaska START Program in December to assist Alaska Native villages and federally recognized Alaska Native governments with accelerating clean energy projects.

Applications are currently being reviewed, and selected projects will be announced in April.

Tidal Power Project In Puget Sound Abandoned By Utility


A crew deploying a "sea spider" in 2011 to collect data from the floor of Puget Sound in Admiralty Inlet. After eight years of testing and permitting processes, the Snohomish County PUD has decided to halt the project. | credit: Ashley Ahearn |
A crew deploying a “sea spider” in 2011 to collect data from the floor of Puget Sound in Admiralty Inlet. After eight years of testing and permitting processes, the Snohomish County PUD has decided to halt the project. | credit: Ashley Ahearn |


By Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio

A long-awaited tidal energy project in Puget Sound has come to halt. The project was set to generate electricity and connect it to the grid – the first project of its kind in the world. But it just got too expensive.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District had hoped to install two underwater turbines in Admiralty Inlet near Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island. The pilot turbines would have generated enough power for about 200 homes and stayed in the water up to five years.

The U.S. Department of Energy had said it would pay for half the project, but the department recently said it couldn’t keep paying after eight years of permitting and testing.

Steve Klein, the PUD’s general manager, said new types of renewable energy need support.

“Tidal, wave, and ocean generation are kind of where wind (power) was 10 or 15 years ago. Even wind needed that support, that research, that involvement from a number of different parties,” Klein said.

Watch: video of a crew putting tidal energy test equipment in Admiralty Inlet



Klein said the PUD is still looking for partners to help pay for the construction, but that it probably won’t look into another tidal power project any time soon if it can’t find other financing.

Some had worried the tidal energy project would harm marine life like resident orcas that regularly swim in the waters. A study by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found adult male orcas would likely not suffer significant damage if they came into contact with the turbine blade.

The project received a federal license in March.

The PUD spent about $4 million on the project, with funding from grants and the sale of renewable energy credits from wind projects. The PUD expected to finish construction of the tidal energy project by 2016.

Renewable Energy Takes Root In Northwest Indian Country

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon is home to the Northwest’s first wind turbine on tribal lands. The turbine will generate 25 percent of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute's power.Courtney Flatt
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Eastern Oregon is home to the Northwest’s first wind turbine on tribal lands. The turbine will generate 25 percent of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute’s power.
Courtney Flatt


By Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio

PENDLETON, Ore. — You can spot one of the Eastern Oregon’s newest renewable energy projects from Interstate 84. It doesn’t look like other wind projects east of the Cascades.

A single wind turbine rises over the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

The turbine blades gain momentum as the wind picks up. The tribes’ executive director, Dave Tovey, said this cultural institute turned out to be the perfect spot for the first turbine erected in Northwest Indian Country. The place where the tribes broke ground for the cultural institute is notoriously windy.

“A lot of our elders would just shake their heads as say, ‘You guys know, the wind always blows up there.’ We always thought, like Indian tribes, and like we do with so many other things here, we turn a seeming disadvantage into an advantage, or even an opportunity,” Tovey said.

Many Northwest tribes have been exploring ways to get more of their electricity from renewable sources that don’t pollute, like coal-fired power plants do, or harm fish — a concern when it comes to hydroelectric dams.

David Mullon is the chief counsel for the National Congress of American Indians, based in Washington, D.C. He said renewable energy is one way tribes can protect natural resources.

“A major portion of the tribal population is located on the reservation homelands. Protecting and conserving the resources on those very small places is an important consideration,” Mullon said.

There are plenty of examples in Northwest Indian Country: Idaho’s Nez Perce Tribe and Washington’s Yakama Nation are looking into generating electricity by burning woody debris in biomass plants. The Colville Tribes in Eastern Washington get energy from biomass and solar panels, too.

In Oregon, the turbine at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute will generate about 25 percent of the building’s electricity.


Jess Nowland helps manage the building, which serves as a gathering place and museum for the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes.

Before putting up the wind turbine, the tribes were working on conservation at the center. Nowland said they’ve reduced its energy consumption by about 70 percent, saving more than $700,000.

“The reality is that there are buildings everywhere that you can achieve this kind of savings on,” Nowland said.

This wind turbine is the beginning of renewable energy on the Umatilla reservation. Next up: the tribes plans to install solar panels at the cultural institute.

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With Interior Department Funding, Native American Tribe Could Soon Build A Billion-Dollar Wind Farm

By Katie Valentine, Think Progess

Twenty-one tribal energy and mineral projects just got a boost from the Department of Interior, including multiple projects to advance renewable energy on tribal land.

On Friday, the Interior Department announced the 21 tribal projects that would share in $3.2 million worth of federal grants. The projects include 13 proposals for renewable energy, including wind, hydropower and biomass. The recipients also include two oil and gas extraction projects and six projects focused on extracting limestone and other minerals.

“These grants are about strengthening self-determination and self-governance by enabling tribal nations to evaluate and promote their energy and mineral assets, negotiate the best agreements with partners or investors and develop these resources for the social and economic benefit of their communities,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a release

Not all of the tribes know how much money they’ll receive yet, but renewable projects accounted for the largest chunk of grant money at $1,972,350 for the 13 proposals. One of the tribes to receive grant money is the Crow Creek Sioux tribe in South Dakota, which has plans to build a billion-dollar wind farm. Crow Creek leaders hope the farm will provide free electricity to the 2,000 tribe members that live on the reservation and also generate electricity that the tribe could sell to nearby towns. If the tribe gets enough funding to build the project, leaders say it could produce enough energy to power 100,000 to 400,000 homes.

“We never hardly hear good news,” tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue told the Rapid City Journal of the tribe’s grant. “This was one of the greatest pieces of news I have heard since being chairman for Crow Creek.”

The tribe hopes to secure funding in time to start constructing the 150-160 turbine wind farm in early 2016.

Another initiative that secured Department of Interior funding is Montana’s Crow Tribe, which will receive $655,000 to build a hydroelectric facility at an existing dam on their reservation. That project would also provide power to reservation residents and would have the potential of supplying power outside of the reservation as well.

The grants are helping fund some projects that, if completed, would be one of only a few of their kind on tribal lands. There’s only one tribal-run wind farm in the U.S. so far — the Kumeyaay wind farm in California, which produces enough energy to power about 30,000 homes. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is also working to build a 90-turbine wind farm, but that project hasn’t been completed yet. Government initiatives are looking to jump-start renewable energy on tribal land, however — in 2012 the Department of Energy gave away more than $6.5 million to 19 renewable energy projects on tribal lands, and in 2013 the DOE gave $7 million to nine tribes for wind, biomass and solar projects.

Google strikes energy deal with Native American firm

Google strikes deal with a small, Native American-owned firm called Chermac Energy, which is developing the Happy Hereford wind farm outside Amarillo, Texas.

Source: USA Today

Google needs a lot of energy to keep its data centers humming around the world. That can get dirty, environmentally, so the the world’s largest Internet search company is trying to get its power from renewable sources.

The latest effort, announced Tuesday, is a deal with a small, Native American-owned firm called Chermac Energy, which is developing the Happy Hereford wind farm outside Amarillo, Texas.

Google said it agreed to buy the entire 240 megawatt output of the wind farm, which is expected to start producing energy in late 2014.

This is Google’s fifth long-term energy agreement like this and its largest so far. The company has contracts for more than 570 megawatts of wind energy – enough to power about 170,000 houses, it noted.

Google can’t use this energy directly in its data centers, but the company gets credit for the renewable energy and sells it to the wholesale market. That’s a contrast to some other parts of the world. In Sweden, Google said it can buy wind energy and use it in its Hamina, Finland data center.

Data centers use a lot of energy, so sourcing power efficiently gives technology companies an edge. In early 2010, Google got a license to trade energy on the wholesale market, which allows the company to buy in bulk, a useful advantage.

US Renewable Energy Tops Record in 2012

Wind energy production increased by 16 percent in the United States from 2011 to 2012.Credit: S.R. Lee Photo Traveller | Shutterstock
Wind energy production increased by 16 percent in the United States from 2011 to 2012.
Credit: S.R. Lee Photo Traveller | Shutterstock

By Laura Poppick, Staff Writer  July 30, 2013

Renewable energy production hit an all-time high in the United States in 2012, according to a recent annual energy report.

A combination of government incentives and technological innovations has helped solar and wind power grow in the United States in recent years, the report suggests. From 2011 to 2012, production increased by 49 percent and wind energy increased by 16 percent, according to a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory annual energy analysis published earlier this month.

“I attribute the steady growth to technological advancements as well as tax incentives and state mandates for renewable energy,” said A.J. Simon, an energy analyst at LLNL, who wrote the report. “I would expect this to continue for a while.”


Though the trend is notable, wind and solar energy combined still accounted for only about 2 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2012. Denmark and Spain, in comparison, produced an average of about 30 percent of their energy from wind power last year. [Power of the Future: 10 Ways to Run the 21st Century]

Oil and natural gas accounted for the majority of energy consumption in the United States, and will likely continue to dominate given recent investments in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” Simon said. Fracking is the forceful injection of water, sand and chemicals deep into shale rock that releases previously trapped oil and gas deposits.

By opening up reservoirs of cheap and accessible fossil fuels, fracking could slow efforts to expand renewable energy, though this remains uncertain, according to Simon.

‘Potential game-changer’

Still, those involved in solar and wind energy production in the United States remain confident that these alternative options will continue to grow despite advancements in fracking.

“The turbines are capturing more energy and [the wind industry] is managing to keep costs low,” said Jason Cotrell, the manager of wind turbine technology and innovation with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Recent efforts to improve wind power have focused on making the turbines taller so that they reach stronger air currents higher above the ground. This would allow wind farms to expand to areas that have previously been unsuitable for turbines due to low ground-level wind speeds.

“That would be the potential game-changer, when every state in the U.S. could benefit from wind,” Cotrell said.

Solar oversupply

Solar power has also benefitted from new innovations, but its recent success stems largely from a global oversupply of photovoltaic cells. The combined effects of the economic downturn in 2008 and overambitious renewable policies around the world resulted in an abundance of panels and a relatively small market, according to Tom Kimbis, vice president of Solar Energy Industries Association.

At this point, Kimbis said, expanding the reach of solar energy depends more on the price of the panels than improving their efficiency.

“The efficiency of the panels is now good,” Kimbis said. “The industry has been working to improve efficiency of solar cells for decades and it’s easy to buy a solar module with a 20 percent or higher efficiency today. That’s not really the issue right now. The issue that people care about is how much will it cost and will it work for them.”

Costs depend largely on government tax incentives, which vary from state to state and from year to year. Cotrell and Kimbis both believe that current work in innovating solar and wind power will continue to reduce baseline prices and increase the prevalence of renewable energy in the United States.

Follow Laura Poppick on Twitter. Follow LiveScience on Twitter,Facebook and Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Biomass energy: The bad apple in Obama’s renewable energy barrel

Source: Partnership for Policy Integrity

At last, President Obama has tackled climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a major speech.  Recognizing that power plants are a huge source of unchecked CO2, the President is directing EPA to complete CO2 emission standards for new and existing power plants. Given that reducing emissions will require replacing a significant amount of fossil-fueled power generation with carbon neutral renewable power, clean energy advocates wonder what the Administration’s plans mean for biomass energy, the combustion of biological materials in power plants, instead of fossil fuels.

We already know what EPA is considering as a standard for new fossil fueled power plants – 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh), a standard that is difficult if not impossible for a coal plant to meet.  What about biomass energy? Start with the simple fact that a biomass power plant emits about 3,000 lb of CO2 per MWh, far more than even a coal plant.  Beyond that, the biomass power plants being built in the US are primarily wood-burners, with a typical 50 MW facility (tiny by coal plant standards) burning the equivalent of millions of trees  per year. Cutting forests for fuel degrades forest carbon uptake, and transporting wood fuel takes hundreds of trucks per week, driven thousands of miles, belching more CO2 and pollution.  Claims that stack emissions from burning biomass don’t matter – that the CO2 is eventually neutralized by forest regrowth, or that “waste” wood burned as fuel would  have eventually decomposed and emitted the CO2 anyway – are nothing more than assumptions, and unrealistic ones at that, considering that last summer the US got a taste of the climate-to-come, experiencing record-breaking temperatures, extreme weather events and massive forest fires.

Even under the best case scenario, where forests are left alone to regrow for decades after being cut for biomass fuel, current modeling and science shows that it takes several decades to neutralize the extra CO2 emitted a biomass power plant. No serious climate scientist believes we can afford to wait decades to reduce emissions, and no serious policy-maker should promote investing billions of dollars into biomass energy infrastructure, with its deferred and hypothetical benefits of carbon reductions that are decades off, alongside wind and solar, where the reduction in CO2 emissions occurs right away.

Massachusetts recognized that biomass power plants increase emissions instead of reducing them, and took low-efficiency biomass energy out of the State’s renewable portfolio. The fact that wood-burning power plants are still considered “renewable” energy sources in the rest of the country is a testimony to the biomass industry’s lobbying clout. With CO2 emissions standards for power plants finally on the Administration’s radar, however, claims that biomass energy benefits the climate may finally bump up against reality.

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Documentary Explores Tensions Between Indigenous Cultures and Renewable Energy Development


By Aji, June 24, 2013, for New Day

Who Are My People?, documentary by Robert Lundahl, premiered on Saturday in San Diego, California. The film explores the disconnect that occurs when non-Indians assume that using sacred ground for renewable energy is an automatic benefit that must outweigh the rights of the land’s indigenous peoples to their ancestors’ history and ongoing traditional practices.

At the heart of the dispute is a contest between Native American traditions and developers and government officials who contend benefits from the projects such as greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy production outweigh their disturbance of cultural resources in the bleak desert terrain.Some of those resources, Lundahl said, seem “downright strange to Anglo-European eyes – like enormous geoglyphs, or earth drawings, visible from space, including giant human-like forms and complex geometries.”

“Stranger still,” he added, “international energy companies want to build their facilities right on top of these sacred communications from the distant past. In the process, they are tearing apart the social and cultural fabric of indigenous descendants.”

Mr. Lundahl is white. He has a history of making documentary films about Native subjects and issues, for which he has received a number of industry and academic awards. Those awards, however, are bestowed by the dominant culture, and are not themselves an indicator of whether he gets it right from an Indian perspective. That said, it appears that he makes an effort to showcase actual Native voices in his films, and this one appears to be no exception.

For those who wish to view the film, the release dates are listed on the film’s official Web site as “Coming Soon.” The site does, however, make it possible to view a trailer and read about Mr. Lundahl’s artistic vision and intent. Since the premiere occurred only two days ago, it’s worthwhile to keep tabs on future showings, particularly to see how it’s received in the portions of Indian Country that the film covers.

Responsibility to Future Generations: Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands

David Agnew, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, meets with leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Moapa Solar Project. (by Eric Lee)
David Agnew, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, meets with leaders of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Moapa Solar Project. (by Eric Lee)

David Agnew,

Today, the President announced his comprehensive plan to cut the carbon pollution that is changing our climate and affecting public health.  Reducing carbon pollution will keep our air and water clean and safe for our kids and grandkids.  It will also create jobs in the industries of the future as we modernize our power plants to produce cleaner forms of American-made energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  And it will lower home energy bills and begin to slow the effects of climate change.

While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we need to begin preparing to leave a safe and clean planet to our children.  Last weekend, in the desert northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the privilege of visiting a project that is already working to meet the challenges laid out today in the President’s Climate Action Plan.  The intense desert heat and bright sun made it crystal clear to anyone who stepped outside that this location has plenty of solar energy to harness.

The Moapa Solar Project, on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, is a 350 megawatt solar energy project that will help power over 100,000 homes and generate 400 jobs at peak construction.   The Moapa Paiute tribe has set aside approximately 2,000 acres of their 72,000 acre Reservation for the project, including some acreage to ensure a protected habitat for the endangered desert tortoises living near the project. A commitment to protect their tribal homelands from the effects of existing power sources led this tribe to gain approval from the Secretary of the Interior in 2012 for construction of the first utility-scale solar project on tribal lands.  As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Moapa Solar project will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil while creating good jobs in the heart of Indian Country – jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

The 56 million acres of tribal lands in the United States hold great potential for solar, wind and geothermal projects, and the Obama Administration remains committed to working with tribes on a government-to-government basis to help break down the barriers to clean energy development.  The passage of the HEARTH Act and the recently updated Department of the Interior regulations to streamline leasing on tribal lands are returning greater control over land use decisions to tribes, and individual landowners are already helping to promote housing and economic development throughout Indian Country.  The Moapa Solar Project holds valuable lessons that we will look to as we seek to encourage additional clean energy projects on tribal lands.

While visiting the site of the Moapa Solar Project, I also had the pleasure of meeting a dedicated group of tribal leaders and project managers who are working hard to make this project a reality.  I appreciated their hospitality on a hot Saturday afternoon.  All the best to Chairman Anderson, and a warm thank you to Vice Chairman Lee, Environmental Coordinator Darren Daboda, the Moapa Tribal Council and other tribal leaders who are working hard to bring clean energy and good jobs to their community.  I applaud the Moapa Tribe’s leadership, vision and perseverance, and wish them all the best in this exciting endeavor.

David Agnew is the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

U.S. Forest Service Awards Nearly $2.5M for Renewable Energy Projects

Indian Country Today Media Network

Chilkoot Indian Association, Menominee Tribal Enterprises win grants to support clean, renewable energy projects, help reduce the risk of wildfire and provide economic opportunities to their rural communities

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced the award of nearly $2.5 million in grants to 10 small businesses and community groups for wood-to-energy projects that will help expand regional economies and create new jobs.

“These grants help grow new jobs, support clean energy production and improve our local environments, especially in reducing fire threats,” said Tidwell. “Communities from Massachusetts to Alaska will benefit from the program this year.”

The projects will use woody material removed from forests during projects such as wildfire prevention and beetle-killed trees, and process woody biomass in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity. The awardees will use funds from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program to further the planning of such facilities by funding the engineering services necessary for final design, permitting and cost analysis.

In fiscal year 2012, 20 biomass grant awards from the Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program totaling approximately $3 million were made to small business and community groups across the country. This $3 million investment leveraged more than $400 million of rural development grants and loan guarantees for woody biomass facilities. The program has contributed to the treatment of more than 500,000 acres and removed and used nearly 5 million green tons of biomass at an average cost of just $66 per acre. Grantees also reported a combined 1,470 jobs created or retained as a result of the grant awards.

The program helps applicants complete the necessary design work needed to secure public or private investment for construction, and has been in effect since 2005. During this time period, more than 150 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, tribes and local state agencies to improve forest health, while creating jobs, green energy and healthy communities.

Out of the 17 applications received, the Forest Service selected 10 small businesses and community groups as grant recipients for these awards. According to the requirements, all 10 recipients provided at least 20 percent of the total project cost. Non-federal matching funds total nearly $6.3 million.

The following are the 2013 woody biomass utilization grantees:

2013 Woody Biomass Utilization Grantees

Chilkoot Indian Association, Haines, Alaska $35,000

Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Ketchikan, Alaska copy43,363

Sierra Institute for Community and Environment, Plumas County, Calif. $250,000

Calaveras Healthy Impact Products Solution, Wilseyville, Calif. copy84,405

Narragansett Regional School District, Baldwinville, Mass. $250,000

Stoltze Land and Lumber Company, Columbia Falls, Mont. $210,988

New Generation Biomass, Alamogordo, N.M. $250,000

Wisewood, Inc., Harney County, Ore. $250,000

Oregon Military Department, Salem, Ore. $250,000

Menominee Tribal Enterprises, Neopit, Wis. $250,000

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than copy3 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.