Photo Credit: Minoru KaramatsuYou might’ve heard people mention renewable energy – in school, in the community, maybe even at home. It can seem complicated. And there aren’t a lot of resources that will break it down for you in a way that’s easy to understand. And even more importantly, there’s next to NO PLACE to go to see how it applies to Native communities.
Well, here you go. Here's a description of renewable energy sources, and how native communities are using them.
Hydropower is using water to generate electricity. Today, most hydro projects turn falling water through a dam into energy. Going forward, we’ll start to see more energy converted from waves and tides. But that’s later. An example of tribal hydro power comes from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. They manage the largest hydroelectric project in the state of Oregon. The Pelton/Round Butte Hydroelectric Project generates enough power to supply more than 137,000 homes per year. Whoa.
Wind energy uses the power from the wind to generate electricity. On a large scale, the Campo Kumeyaay Nation in California has 25 large wind turbines on their tribal lands that generate enough power for 30,000 homes.
Solar power uses energy directly from the sun. Solar energy can be used for heating buildings and water and to generate electricity. Solar projects range in size in Indian Country. A smaller sized example might be the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona, who implemented solar power to generate power for their tribal radio tower this past summer. On a larger scale, the Moapa Paiute Tribe of Nevada is working on a project that will use solar to meet the energy needs of more than 93,000 homes… and they’ll protect their desert turtles in the process. It’s pretty amazing.
Geothermal energy utilizes the natural warmth from underground as a heating source. The Smith River Rancheriaof Northern California is a great example. By utilizing a geothermal exchange, the Smith River Rancheria has been able to add on to their lodge, event center, and restaurant without increasing their power bills.
Wondering if your tribe is involved in renewable energy? Check with your Energy and Natural Resources Department.