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Indian tribes discuss wind power

Jun 6, 2009 - The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY - Wind turbines could be a clean, cost-effective way of powering tribal casinos, medical clinics and even tribal administrative projects, speakers said at an American Indian symposium.

Tribal leaders addressed renewable energy issues and other topics this week at a Sovereignty Symposium in Oklahoma City.

Tribal jobs could be created through the manufacture of component parts for wind turbines, said Jaime McAlpine, an Osage tribal member who is president of Chermac Energy Corp.

But there are also potential conflicts.

Some tribal members may be concerned that wind turbines and transmission lines obstruct the natural beauty of the land. There could be a potential reduction in hunting grounds. Wind energy sites could infringe on burial grounds and archaeological sites.

There is also the potential for sovereignty legal issues to spring up if utilities decide they want to build transmission lines across tribal properties.

But several speakers said that the potential rewards are great enough that tribes should at least consider getting involved with wind power, perhaps starting in a small way.

"Don't be afraid to think small projects," said Edmond attorney Ken Bellmard, a member of the Kaw Nation.

By installing small wind turbines next to casinos, tribes might be able to save $30,000 to $60,000 of electricity a month, he said.

The turbines could pay for themselves in energy savings and the tribes could enjoy free electricity from then on, he said.

"You can do the same thing with your clinics and your housing authorities," he said.

These projects would not have to tie into the electrical grid so there would be minimal regulatory and intergovernmental problems, he said.

While most tribes are located in eastern Oklahoma, where the wind is relatively weak, tribes in the western part of the state, such as the Cheyenne-Arapahos, might have the potential to develop wind farms, Bellmard said.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com