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Standing Rock Sioux seek developer for 235-MW wind farm

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is courting developers to help build a 235-MW wind farm within its borders.

The Native American nation has identified a site near Fort Yates, N.D., and built access roads in order to show progress so that it can capture equity from the federal production tax credit, said Joseph McNeil, general manager of the SAGE Development Authority, a public power authority the Standing Rock Sioux recently set up.

"It is going to be impossible to do it if we lose the PTC," McNeil said.

The site, called Porcupine Hills, has a 50% wind capacity factor, and there is land set aside for another 200 MW of capacity, he said. The Southwest Power Pool has approved an interconnection request for the project, called Anpetu Wi. Hoping to bring the wind farm online by 2023, the SAGE Development Authority is also seeking a power purchaser.

The SAGE Development Authority, the first public power authority owned by a Native American tribe in the U.S., was set up to "provide a better quality product and price for our people," McNeil said. Utility rates are 14.5 cents/KWh on Standing Rock Sioux land, almost twice that of rates in nearby Bismarck, N.D. The poverty rate in the tribe is 40%.

The Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative Inc. currently provides power to the Standing Rock Reservation, which roughly 2,320 housing units, according to McNeil. The tribe hopes to slowly take over power delivery through the SAGE Development Authority.

With casino revenue down, McNeil said the project could bring in $45 million to $50 million in additional annual revenue for the Standing Rock Sioux.

The tribe's fight against the Dakota Access pipeline helped reignite the Sioux interest in renewable energy, he said. Some Native American groups have long derived revenue from fossil fuel extraction, and are now seeking to provide members renewable energy to lower electricity costs, protect the environment and provide independence.

"Developing renewable energy resources — for export as well as local consumption — will foster badly needed economic development on the Reservation and provide employment and skills training," Fawn Wasin Zi, SAGE board chair, said in a statement.