Tribes exploring renewable energy prospects: Need money

American Indian tribes in Michigan are seeking to develop renewable energy, but a lack of money is impeding many projects.

Michigan tribes have a potential for wind energy and wood-based biomass, said Roger Taylor, the principal project manager of the Tribal Energy Program at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

Frank Ettawageshik, executive director of the United Tribes of Michigan and the former chair of the Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians, said tribes are close to the environment and vulnerable to environmental degradation.

Tribal lands cover about 5 percent of the United States and hold an estimated 10 percent of the country’s renewable energy resources, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

But its study shows tribes are bearing the brunt of climate change. For example, tribes of the Great Lakes have reported diminishing elk and moose herds, as climate change forces animals north to colder habitats.

Don Seal, a community engineer at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, said renewable energy helps his tribe offset the carbon footprint of fossil fuels.

The tribe did a wind study in 2004 and will install its first wind turbine by the end of this year, he said. The 300-kilowatt turbine will power its greenhouse and homes.

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