DOE Funds Clean Energy Projects on Native American Tribal Lands

Credit: Dave Brosha Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Photographer
Credit: Dave Brosha Yellowknife, Northwest Territories Photographer

Following through on President Obama’s historic National Climate Change Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is investing over $7 million in Native American Tribal Nations’ clean energy projects to help build “stronger, more resilient communities that are better prepared for a changing climate.”

Fostering clean energy and energy efficiency gains from Alaska to New York and southwest to Arizona, the nine projects will not only enhance Native American communities’ resilience to climate change and their energy security, they will also enhance environmental quality, reduce expenses and create new green job and business opportunities, the DOE asserted during the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference, which was held November 13, the fifth such event during the Obama presidency.

Fostering clean energy efficiency on Native American tribal lands

Accounting for two percent of U.S. land, Native American Indian lands hold an estimated 5 percent of national renewable energy resources, according to a comprehensive study undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Source: "Developing Clean Energy Projects on Tribal Lands, Data and Resources for Tribes"; US DOE Office of Indian Energy
Source: “Developing Clean Energy Projects on Tribal Lands, Data and Resources for Tribes”; US DOE Office of Indian Energy

Quoted in a DOE press release, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz stated,

American Indian and Alaska Native tribes host a wide range of untapped energy resources that can help build a sustainable energy future for their local communities. Responsible development of these clean energy resources will help cut energy waste and fight the harmful effects of carbon pollution – strengthening energy security of Tribal nations throughout the country.”

Through the Tribal Energy Program, DOE, since 2002, has invested nearly $42 million in 175 tribal clean energy projects. In collaboration with its Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, DOE “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.”

Following is a list of the Native American clean energy/energy efficiency projects to receive DOE funding:

  • Coeur d’Alene Tribe (Plummer, Idaho) – The tribe will implement energy upgrades to refrigeration systems at its Benewah Market, helping to reduce energy consumption by about 30 percent.
  • Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government (Fort Yukon, Alaska) – The project will complete an energy efficiency retrofit to the tribe’s main office building, including building shell upgrades as well as the installation of efficient lighting and a solar electric system. These efforts could help reduce fuel oil use by nearly 50 percent, representing about 2,300 gallons per year.
  • Forest County Potawatomi Community (Milwaukee, Wis.) – The tribe will install solar panels on eight tribal facilities – displacing between 25 to 70 percent of the total energy used by each of the buildings.
  • Menominee Tribal Enterprises (Neopit, Wis.) – Through this project, the tribe will install a biomass-fueled combined heat and power system to power the tribe’s sawmill and lumber drying operation. The project will help cut fuel oil use by over 80 percent annually.
  • Seneca Nation of Indians (Irving, N.Y.) – The tribe will install a 1.8-megawatt wind turbine near Lake Erie. The wind turbine is expected to generate about 50 percent of the electricity used on the entire reservation.
  • Southern Ute Indian Tribe Growth Fund (Ignacio, Colo.) – This project will help install an 800-kilowatt solar energy system to provide energy to multiple Southern Ute buildings. This solar system could help displace nearly 40 percent of the total fuel used in these buildings.
  • Tonto Apache Tribe (Payson, Ariz.) – The tribe will install solar arrays on three of the tribe’s largest energy consuming buildings — helping to meet more than 60 percent of the buildings’ total electricity needs.
  • White Earth Reservation Tribal Council (White Earth, Minn.) – The project will install a woody biomass-fueled boiler to heat a tribal facility – replacing over 60 percent of the fuel oil and propane currently used to heat the facility.
  • Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska (Winnebago, Neb.) – The tribe will install a solar energy system to help power the Winnebago police and fire building, providing about 30 percent of the building’s energy use. The solar system will also serve as an emergency backup power generator.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email:

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