wind farm is proposed for the Rosebud Sioux reservation, in South
Dakota, where the Rosebud Casino draws power from the one turbine
to have gone up so far.
S.D. The wind blows incessantly here in the high plains;
screen doors do not last. Wind is to South Dakota what forests
are to Maine or beaches are to Florida: a natural bounty and a
Native American tribes like the Rosebud Sioux now seek to claim
that inheritance. If they succeed in building turbine farms to
harness some of the countrys strongest and most reliable
winds, tribal officials like Ken Haukaas believe, they could create
a new economic underpinning for the 29,000 tribal members whose
per capita annual income is about $7,700, less than a third the
broke here, Mr. Haukaas said. Were poor.
But, he added: The wind is free. Theres energy here
all the time.
Haukaas believes that the same thing that brought the buffalo
brings the wind.
buffalo were a gift, he continued. The wind is a gift.
2003, after erecting a 750-kilowatt turbine that powers the Rosebud
Casino near the Nebraska border, the Rosebud Sioux tribal council
set its sights on building the Owl Feather War Bonnet wind farm,
a 30-megawatt project that could power about 12,000 homes, each
about 1,200 square feet.
five years of negotiations with a non-Indian developer, Distributed
Generation Systems Inc. of Colorado, the tribal council president,
Rodney M. Bordeaux, said Thursday that he expected to sign a construction
deal that would bring in some $5 million to the tribe over 20 years.
The total is about $1.7 million less than the developers original
offer because of an acrimonious last-minute dispute with the tribe.
idea of hitching tribal fortunes to the wind has gained momentum
with the growth of the wind industry, which is expanding so fast
that turbines are in short supply worldwide.
the states now require utilities to add renewable energy to their
portfolios. The oilman T. Boone Pickens is proselytizing about the
value of wind, and thousands of turbines have sprouted on the Texas
Native Americans can get into the business, some federal officials
say, the hope is that wind, like casino gaming, could reshape their
could be huge, said Lizana Pierce, the project manager with
the tribal energy program at the Department of Energy.
in the wind-rich Indian country, turbines are few, and deals to
build them often do not come easily. Unpredictable cultural boundaries
sometimes separate Indian tribal leaders, who have access to the
wind, and non-Indian business executives, who raise the money to
buy and install turbines, make deals to transmit the electricity
to market and find buyers for it.
just one significant wind farm operating on Indian land a
50-megawatt project on the Campo reservation near San Diego
the Energy Department has been hoping for another to prove to wind
developers that successful projects are possible.
Begay-Campbell, the principal member of the technical staff at the
departments Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, said,
People have been waiting for something to happen so you can
point to the success and say, Look at this model.
projects are in the offing; the Lower Brule Sioux tribe, to the
northeast of Rosebud, recently struck a deal with Iberdrola Renewables,
a subsidiary of the Spanish utility Iberdrola S.A., to build a 225-megawatt
only the Rosebud Sioux, Ms. Begay-Campbell said, are poised
and ready to move toward the actual development and hardware.
Energy Department has invested nearly $450,000 in the development
of the Owl Feather War Bonnet wind farm, to be built on 50 acres
in the western part of the Rosebud reservation. The department also
recommended Distributed Generation Systems and its president, Dale
Osborn, a seasoned hand in the wind-energy industry who has built
small-scale projects in Colorado, Spain and China.
it took the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs 18 months to sign off
on the original deal, approved by the tribal council in 2006, under
which the tribe would receive $280,000 in royalties the first year
of the wind farms operation. The amount would have grown each
year, with the 20-year total topping $7 million.
Haukaas, who is the tribes project manager, said that from
a landowners standpoint, the offer was the most lucrative
he could find. This is a $58.6 million project, he told
the tribal council. We do not put up a dime. All we put up
is the land.
those 18 months, a tribal election was held, and the new council
objected to the terms of the deal.
tribal tax authorities recently decided that tribal sovereignty
was at risk if a $1.17 million employment tax, the maximum possible,
was not paid up front, Mr. Osborn complained bitterly to the tribe
and to the reservations Congressional overseers.
am frustrated beyond belief, Mr. Osborn said in a recent interview,
adding that his deal with investors cannot bear the weight of the
unexpected upfront costs unless royalty payments are lowered.
some of the councils 20 members were suspicious of Mr. Osborn
and angry at his outbursts about the tax.
people for these companies come and wave a couple of dollars in
front of us, and we fall for it, a council member, Leonard
Wright, said at a meeting on Oct. 2.
member, Robert D. Moore, said of Mr. Osborn: He questions
our mentality. I question his.
few years ago, a hog-farm company received an easement from the
Rosebud Sioux in return for a percentage of net profits then
showed little or no profit. Mr. Bordeaux, the tribal council president,
said he had taken care to make certain that whoever developed the
wind farm did not take advantage of us like the hog farm did.
Osborn emphasized that the tribes royalty share would be taken
from revenues, not profits. On Wednesday, he sent back to the tribe
a revised deal that reduced the total payout over 20 years by $1.7
million, to a little more than $5 million, to accommodate the upfront
the rancorous back and forth, Mr. Bordeaux said Thursday that he
would sign off on the new arrangement. The main idea is we
got that initiative going, he said. We can become a
major player in wind in South Dakota.
Nelson Limerick, a history professor who is board chairwoman of
the Center of the American West, at the University of Colorado,
pointed to the several hundred years of mistrust between white
folks and Indians in discussing the tangled process
that led to the Rosebud Siouxs wind deal. If you average
out the zigzags, Dr. Limerick said, its moving
in the right direction.
Osborn was less sanguine. Doing business on a reservation,
he said, is more difficult than doing business in China.