Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation - 1999 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation
Location: New Town, ND
Project Title: Utility Scale Wind Turbine Demonstration Project on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota
Type of Application: Deployment
DOE Grant Number: DE-FC36-99GO10472
Project Amounts:
DOE: $230,284
Awardee: $57,571
Total: $287,855
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 1999
End: December 2005


The Three Affiliated Tribes are interested in exploring wind energy to determine how this renewable energy technology can be utilized to foster local economic development and contribute toward tribal energy independence by providing clean, renewable energy.

The Three Affiliated Tribes propose installing a used, reconditioned, 100-kW wind turbine on the Fort Berthold reservation to provide power to the tribe's Four Bears Casino. This demonstration turbine will provide the tribe with an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience in wind energy technology, allowing the tribe to make better-informed decisions in the future regarding how wind energy can contribute to economic development, energy independence, and self-reliance.

The tribes will contract with wind energy experts with experience in the installation of wind turbines on reservation lands to assist in the procurement, installation, and utility hookup of a high-quality, utility-scale, reconditioned wind turbine and to arrange for quality training at established wind farms by experienced windsmiths. Tribal personnel will be trained to operate and maintain the wind turbine, performing routine maintenance and monitoring the turbine on a daily basis.

A local energy research facility with experience in wind energy will be involved in the project to assist with data collection and reporting requirements and to provide technical backup to the tribe in case of personnel turnover or in case of unscheduled maintenance problems.

The Office of Intergovernmental Assistance, State of North Dakota (State Energy Office) will sponsor annual windsmith training sessions to be conducted on reservations in North Dakota.

Project Description

The photographs show the recently expanded Four Bears Casino, anemometer (wind resource monitor) on top of a plateau above the shores of Lake Sakakawea, and the plateau overlooking New Town, North Dakota. (Photos courtesy of the Three Affiliated Tribes)

The Three Affiliated Tribes propose installing a used, reconditioned, 100-kW wind turbine on the Fort Berthold reservation to provide power to the tribe's Four Bears Casino. This demonstration turbine provides the tribe with an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience in wind energy technology, allows the tribe to make better-informed decisions in the future regarding how wind energy can contribute to economic development, energy independence, and self-reliance.

The wind resource in North Dakota is among the highest in the nation, with most of the state being in the power class range of 4 and higher. At present, there are only five utility-scale wind turbines operating in the state, the largest being 100-kW turbines.

There are several reasons for the lack of wind development. North Dakota has more lignite coal than any other state. A number of relatively new mine-mouth power plants are operating in the state, resulting in an abundance of low-cost electricity. More than 60% of the power produced by these plants is exported. The fossil fuel interests have played an active role in deterring wind energy development in the state. They support legislation that deters renewable energy development and publish information suggesting that wind energy is unreliable and impractical. They have published information arguing against the theory of global warming, suggesting that the buildup of CO2 may be good for the environment.

Of the few success stories relating to wind energy development in North Dakota, two of them involve Native American tribes that installed demonstration turbines as a part of earlier U.S. Department of Energy programs similar to the current solicitation. Both turbines are still in operation and have been operated and maintained successfully by the tribes since being commissioned in the fall of 1996. These successful projects serve as the model for the project now being proposed by the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Goals and Objectives

The Three Affiliates Tribes' goals are:

  • To gain a better understanding of wind energy technology in order to evaluate its potential for creating economic opportunities for the tribes as well as a means to achieve some level of energy independence.

  • To provide actual performance data and hands-on experience for students, instructors, researchers, political leaders, and tribal planners with regard to the development of large-scale wind energy projects on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

  • To perform preliminary economic assessment of a large-scale wind farm site on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

  • To increase the awareness and acceptance of wind energy development on the Fort Berthold Reservation and to provide a working example of current wind energy conversion technology.

  • To provide a focus and a platform for educational programs on the Fort Berthold Community College campus through technical training, business training, and environmental studies.

  • To provide a forum to initiate and strengthen the essential working relationships among tribal members and state, federal, utility, energy research, and commercial energy development people.

The tribes intend to pursue this goal by gaining hand-on experience in the procurement, installation, commissioning, operation, and maintenance of a utility-scale wind turbine. The demonstration turbine will serve as a learning platform and a focal point for a number of educational and outreach activities intended to increase public awareness of the viability of wind energy in North Dakota.

Implementation Plan

Site Selection.

The turbine will be hooked up to the Four Bears Casino. The casino is an excellent load choice for a wind turbine because the electrical demand is large and constant. Virtually all of the power produced by a 100-kW wind turbine will be consumed directly by the casino. The value of the power produced by the wind turbine will then be that of the retail-priced power it displaces (6 to 8 cents per kWh). In contrast, any excess power produced by the wind turbine will have the value of the power company's avoided cost (approximately 1 cent per kWh) when sold back to the local utility.

Turbine Selection.

A used wind turbine will be procured as a part of this project. The size of the turbine will be limited to 100 kW. The net billing laws in North Dakota allow generators up to 100 kW in size to be eligible for net billing arrangements. If possible, it would be advantageous to obtain a used Micon 108 wind turbine identical to the two currently operating on the Turtle Mountain and Fort Totten Reservations in North Dakota. The Micon 108 has proved itself very reliable. Selecting this model would make it easier to share resources, experience, and spare parts, if necessary, with the other tribes. Other similar Danish wind turbines are available for sale for this project. A solicitation for bids will be issued once this project is approved for funding.

The Micon 108 is typical of three-bladed, active-yaw, up-wind turbine designs. It uses an induction generator with fixed-pitch blades. The rotor spins at a constant 44 rpm. Power is transmitted through a stepped-up gearbox to the generator, which operates at 1200 rpm. The rotor has a diameter of approximately 56 feet and is mounted at a height of approximately 84 feet. The turbine employs pneumatically actuated brakes with spring-loaded tip brakes as a backup. It is mounted on a three-section, bent tubular tower with inside ladder access to the nacelle.

Project Overview

The anemometer was installed in June 2000 on the plateau above the shores of Lake Sakakawea and has been collecting wind resource data since. The tribe has been exploring various options to increase the available energy for the recently expanded tribally owned casino: 1) purchase multiple turbines; 2) purchase a larger turbine; or 3) develop a small wind farm. Additionally, the Three Affiliated Tribes have contacted Federal agencies and the Rural Electric Cooperative for power purchase agreements, explored funding options through the Rural Utility Systems and considered investor proposals. In June 2001, the Tribal Council gave approval for the project to pursue funding for a 1.5 MW turbine. The project is continuing to pursue additional funding for either multiple turbines or for a larger turbine than the one originally proposed.

Project Location

Located in northwestern North Dakota, the Fort Berthold Reservation was originally established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The current boundaries, as determined by an Act of Congress in 1891, encompass approximately 986,000 acres or 1550 square miles. Portions of six North Dakota counties are included within the reservation's exterior boundaries.

Fort Berthold is home to members of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes. While approximately 8600 members are enrolled on the Reservation, only 4000 members actually reside there. The 5600 non-Indians living within the exterior boundaries augment this population. The economic base of the reservation is almost entirely agricultural, with oil and gas exploration/development as a secondary contributor.

Preliminary site selection activities suggest that the wind turbine will be located on a plateau just north of Highway 23. The land rises abruptly more than 350 feet above nearby Lake Sakakawea to the plateau. The turbine will supply power to the tribally owned casino.

Project Status

This project is complete. For more, see the final report (PDF 307 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

For additional information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Terry Fredericks
Three Affiliated Tribes
404 Frontage Road
New Town, ND 58763
Telephone: (701) 627-4828
Fax: (701) 290-2286