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Congress Awakening to Renewables on Native Lands, Advocates Say

Two pending bills show policy progress but tricky obstacles remain

By Autumn Spanne

Oct 26, 2010

 Twenty-five wind turbines line the dry, rugged ridges on the Indian reservation east of San Diego, Calif. As the first large-scale wind farm on tribal lands in the United States, the 50-megawatt array has become a model for other tribes looking to develop their renewable energy resources.

Two separate pieces of federal legislation introduced this year have advocates cautiously optimistic that there is growing will in Washington to aid tribes in developing renewable energy resources to their full potential.

The 95 million acres of tribal lands across the U.S. contain about 10 percent of the nation’s renewable energy supply, according to the . More than a hundred tribes have been awarded grants through the U.S. Department of Energy’s , a major source of funding for tribes looking to establish renewable energy projects. Many others are lining up to get their own projects off the ground.

The Campo tribe leases its land to EnXco, a renewable energy project developer. When the wind farm started producing power in 2005, the land lease generated about 5 percent of the small tribe’s annual revenue, according to tribal resource consultant Michael Connolly Miskwish. Now, with the recession taking a big toll on the reservation’s other industries—a casino and a sand and gravel operation—the wind farm accounts for fully half of the tribe’s revenue.   

Its success has led to plans for a second, 64-turbine wind project capable of producing three times as much power. Rather than generating revenue solely from leases, the tribe will be a part-owner of this wind farm. It has also opened the door for projects on neighboring reservations.  

"All of these projects benefit indirectly from the fact that Campo’s up and running," said Connolly.  

Momentum in Washington

At the federal level, “there is absolutely momentum on this issue,” said Tracey LeBeau, interim director of the Indian Country Renewable Energy Consortium. “If we practically approach how we as a nation are going to meet this country's long-term clean energy goals, renewable resource development and critical transmission investment and development will need to incorporate Indian energy.”

 One of the most significant legislative efforts this year includes measures targeted at Indian energy. The bipartisan , authored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), which was introduced in late September following the collapse of efforts to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation, mandates that utilities and other electricity retailers obtain at least 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2021. That would increase demand for renewable energy across the board, including in Indian Country.
 
The RES bill also establishes a national renewable energy credit trading program that offers special incentives for tribes. The trading scheme would grant double credits for renewable energy generated on tribal lands and triple credits for certain small energy generation facilities. Those small facilities could serve as the gateway for tribes to develop larger-scale projects.
 
Red Tape
 
These incentives are a step in the right direction, according to Jose Aguto, a policy advisor on environment and natural resources for the National Congress of American Indians.  

But tribes still face obstacles to developing competitive renewable energy projects. Lack of sufficient financing, limited access to transmission lines and cumbersome regulations can tie up projects for years. Projects in Indian Country are subject to the Department of the Interior approval, which can cause long delays in the permitting process and place tribes at a big competitive disadvantage.

Fantastic Article

Great article!!! More articles like these can send the message that we not only need alternative energy sources, but we can obtain them as well.  Nizhoni, Autumn!!!

Finally we are seeing

Finally we are seeing traction with government in renewable energy I would like to see the next billionaire from the green sector

Finally we are seeing

Finally we are seeing traction with government in renewable energy I would like to see the next billionaire from the green sector

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