Empowering Standing Rock Sioux Tribe through Wind Energy

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) reservation sits in one of the most productive wind energy corridors in North America. In an industry where wind capacity factors (i.e. the amount of the day that the wind blows and electricity can be generated and sold) are historically 30% to 40%, the wind capacity factors have been measured at between 50% and 58% in many areas, making it very attractive for developers.

The Tribe has a strong desire to control the development on its reservation to provide for the long-term best interests of its population. It has successfully developed community scale renewable energy projects in the past. The SRST is interested developing utility scale wind projects to produce power for export into other more densely populated states to provide recurring revenue and employment opportunities for its members, particularly its young people.

LIATI worked with Standing Rock and six other Sioux Tribes in North Dakota and South Dakota to develop an innovative approach to meeting the challenge of this opportunity by creating a multi-party public power agency to combine the efforts of the tribes into a collective and collaborative approach. This work culminated in the creation of the Oceti Sakowin Power Authority (“OSPA”), a federally chartered corporation created to pursue renewable energy projects by the Member tribes. As a Member, Standing Rock is free to work with the other tribes in the OSPA and to pursue its own projects on its reservation.

The benefits of public power are numerous: chief among them is that the customers of public power entities – on average – pay 15% less than those served by investor owned utilities. Generating power in this part of the country for export requires tight control on expenses so that the power can be competitively priced and sold. The public power business model supports this approach. Moreover, since the Tribe’s ownership will be in the form of a governmental entity controlled by the Tribe (but independent and subject to federal jurisdiction for dispute resolution). Public power is also historically one of the great progressive movements from the early 20th century. These characteristics, coupled with the unique wind capacity in the region, will allow for delivery of much lower cost power to serve a competitive and changing energy marketplace.

LIATI has developed an approach to attracting early capital to the Tribe’s efforts to develop their wind resources in partnership so that the Tribe can attain its core objective, which is majority ownership of the wind projects developed on its reservation. The Wallace Global Fund has stepped forward to lead a group of foundations and impact investors to partner with the Tribe in pursuing its goals. LIATI is actively involved in providing advice to the Tribe and has assembled an outstanding team with deep experience in successful wind development and public power to assist the Tribe in moving forward with the work plan. The Tribe can develop up to 1000 MW of power on its reservation.