Wind Project on Tribal Land Dies Quietly


Wind turbines near Campo | Photo: Joel Price/Flickr/Creative Commons License

by Chris Clarke

on February 24, 2014

It’s official: a wind power project that would have generated up to 250 megawatts of power with as many as 85 turbines in the San Diego County backcountry is off the table.

The Shu’luuk Wind Project, proposed by the firm Invenergy for up to 4,000 acres of the Campo Indian Reservation, suffered a mortal blow last June when the tribe’s General Council voted 44-34 to oppose the project. Opposition stemmed from concerns over quality of life, the risk of fire, and perceived health impacts of the project.

Though the project’s proponents had suggested last June that they might seek another vote on the project, the tribe subsequently canceled its lease with the project’s proponent Invenergy. On Thursday, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced that it was cancelling the project’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), thus sticking the proverbial fork in Shu’luuk Wind.

Shu’luuk Wind’s Draft EIS, released in January 2013, was widely criticized for containing insufficient detail about the project’s design, including the type and output of the turbines to be built. Nonetheless, tribe members and other locals expressed strong concerns over fire danger from the project in the traditionally highly flammable San Diego backcountry, as well as increased dust problems from more than 25 miles of new dirt roads, along with concerns over noise and visual disturbance.

The cancellation of the final EIS doesn’t mean there won’t be turbines on the Campo reservation: the tribe already hosts an existing wind installation, the Kumeyaay Wind Farm, with 25 large turbines. An explosion and fire in one of that project’s turbines December 16 didn’t exactly alleviate locals’ concerns about fire danger from local wind development. That facility was offline for nearly a month after the mishap.

Also in December, the BIA approved a deal by which the nearby Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay
Indians would lease reservation lands for a westward expansion of the large Tule Wind project, which would be mainly sited on BLM lands to the east of that band’s Cuyapaipe Reservation, and just north of the Campo Reservation.

Opinion on the Shu’luuk project was mixed within the Campo Reservation’s residents as well, so the cancellation of that project doesn’t necessarily mean the end of new wind projects on Native lands in the backcountry. But as more turbines appear in the area, opposition could intensify.

Wind turbines near Campo | Photo: Joel Price/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Energy Department Announces $7 Million to Promote Clean Energy in Tribal Communities

Source: US Department of Energy

The Energy Department today announced up to $7 million to deploy clean energy projects in tribal communities, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and promoting economic development on tribal lands. The Energy Department’s Tribal Energy Program, in cooperation with the Office of Indian Energy, will help Native American communities, tribal energy resource development organizations, and tribal consortia to install community- or facility-scale clean energy projects.

Tribal lands comprise nearly 2% of U.S. land, but contain about 5% of the country’s renewable energy resources. With more than 9 million megawatts of potential installed renewable energy capacity on tribal lands, these communities are well positioned to capitalize on our domestic renewable energy resources—thereby enhancing U.S. energy security and protecting our air and water.

Through the “Community-Scale Clean Energy Projects in Indian Country” funding opportunity, the Energy Department will make up to $4.5 million available, subject to congressional appropriations, for projects installing clean energy systems that reduce fossil fuel use by at least 15% in either new or existing tribal buildings. Renewable energy systems for power generation only must be a minimum of 50 kilowatts and use commercial-warrantied equipment.

Through the “Tribal Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Deployment Assistance” funding opportunity, the Department will make up to $2.5 million available, subject to congressional appropriations, for projects installing renewable energy and energy efficiency that reduce fossil fuel use in existing tribal buildings by at least 30%. These projects must use commercial-warrantied equipment with renewable energy systems for power generation only of at least 10 kilowatts. Leveraging state or utility incentive programs is encouraged.

The full funding announcements are also available through the Department’s Tribal Energy Program website.

The Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy and the Tribal Energy Program promote tribal energy sufficiency and foster economic development and employment on tribal lands through the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

The Department has invested $41.8 million in 175 tribal clean energy projects over the years, and provides financial and technical assistance to tribes for the evaluation and development of their renewable energy resources, implementation of energy efficiency to reduce energy use, and education and training to help build the knowledge and skills essential for sustainable energy projects.