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Native Wind

nativewind.jpgWe're accustomed to talk about leapfrogging as a process that happens elsewhere. But nearly every advanced industrialized country has pockets of poverty that are as damaging and as pervasive as you'd find in the developing world. They're also opportunities for leapfrogging -- and Native Wind may have the key.

In the United States, among the locations most in need of transformation are the Native American reservations. Native Wind wants to turn the reservations around by making them centers of wind power development. Most reservation areas in the western and mountain states have some amount of wind power potential. But it turns out that some of the richest areas for wind power can be found on reservation territories in the northern plains states: twenty reservation locations have a combined potential of around 300 gigawatts of wind power.

The Native Wind project is bringing together wind energy experts and tribal leaders to work out ways to build wind farms on tribal lands. Two wind facilities have already been built -- a 750kW turbine at the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation and another at the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota -- and two more should be completed by the end of this year. Fort Berthold alone is believed to have over 17 gigawatts of wind power potential. In 2006, the Rosebud location will be expanded into a 30MW wind farm, and another 80MW of wind farms are in development.

Next week will see the Native Renewables Energy Summit (PDF) in Denver, Colorado. Among the questions the conference will tackle: should Native American tribes, as sovereign nations, sign on to the Kyoto treaty?

An article from the WorldWatch Institute, Solar Power, Lakota Employment (PDF), gives a sense of what conditions are like in Native American reservations, and the importance of bringing in renewable energy systems. By every measure, the reservations -- even the ones that have managed to generate some income through casinos -- are in terrible shape. Infant mortality. Poverty. Unemployment. Suicide. And, even though many reservations are criss-crossed by interstate power lines, citizens of reservations are ten times less likely to have electricity than citizens in the rest of the country. Native Wind may not be the full solution, but it could be a damn good start.


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» New Energy Currents: 2005-12-02 from Winds of Change.NET
After a two-month hiatus to 'adjust' to some new academic obligations, New Energy Currents is back, and better, with a more robust selection of links and significant expansions in two different directions. First and foremost,... [Read More]

Comments (12)


So are the feathers from all the birds that the turbines kill? I'm sure though that in the longer term wind farms kill a lot less animals then fossil fuel power plants. Still...

Actually, larger turbines don't have anywhere near the bird kill effect of older, smaller turbines. There's also a flight path issue -- unless birds are prone to flying at that level in that area, they won't come near the blades. In short, there's a real likelihood that these wind turbines won't result in any bird kills.

Shawn MacFarland:

There is a new vertical column turbine design that doesn't kill birds.

See this article

The company is Terra Moya Aqua, Inc.

you can read more here


If height is an issue, then maybe http://www.generadoreolicowm.com can work?

I hope Da Book (I obviously mean WC's upcoming book) includes links to howtos in the public domain or similar. We're trying that in a small way but would appreciate help.


Let a million wind farms bloom.


Here is a turbine design that supposedly eliminates bird kills alltogether while being almost 50 % efficient. Sounds a bit too good to be true but what if it is!


Amazing. I was just researching wind for a spread for the Worldchanging book and ended up sending an email to a couple of friends, observing that a number of the best wind areas were in southern South Dakota, wondering if there was a business to building turbines on the rez. Thrilled to see it's actually happening...

The bird thing has got to stop.

I appears everywhere wind turbines are mentioned, yet we never hear about these same people complaining that cats and windows kill orders of magnitude more birds than wind turbines. Is it really about saving birds or is it about badmouthing wind power? Not that it is not a problem to be dealt with, but come on!

Also, as has been pointed out above, modern wind turbines have very slow blade rotation.

I'm also fairly sure that with a little ingenuity it would be possible to find benign ways to keep birds away from wind turbines.

Stefan Jones:

"Is it really about saving birds or is it about badmouthing wind power? "

To judge from comments I've seen in various forums (fora?), there's a kind of ad-hoc "nyah, nyah!" campaign against wind power under way.

It resembles the kind of ranting the drearier sort of talk radio spleen venters specialize in: "Environmentalists complain about global warming but they kept us from building nuclear plants, and now they're attacking wind power! We told you they were stupid!"


"To some people, wind is a four-letter word," Geringer said. "With what we're talking about here, it's anything but a four-letter word."

man i just couldn't resist copying and pasting this, it's hilarious, i hope he was being ironic intentionally.

anyway, on a more serious note, i agree with any increase in wind power generation completely.

however i can't help but feel a bit saddened (and at the same time hypocritical) when i read about native american indians agreeing to build wind farms on their sacred land in order to help prop up our material western society.

i guess that's just my sentimental side showing, but i'll slap myself back into reality and say that although i know little about native american indian poverty, if these wind power projects help improve their quality of life then more power to them.



In many cases, reservation lands are absolutely NOT sacred sites, but rather, the lands in the region least likely for the Federal Government to want to use. In some places, the Indians were lucky enough for some of their sacred sites to be included in the rez boundaries, but that's the exception, not the rule. See "trail of tears" - I sincerely doubt there are any ancient sacred sites of the Cherokee in Oklahoma.


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