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Northern Cheyenne Tribe - 2003 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Northern Cheyenne Tribe
Location: Lame Deer, MT
Project Title: Northern Cheyenne Wind Energy Development Project
Type of Application: Development
DOE Grant Number: DE-FC36-02GO12100, A001
Project Amounts:
DOE: $536,280
Awardee: $135,570
Total: $671,850
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2003
End: June 2005


The Northern Cheyenne Tribe, located in Rosebud and Bighorn counties in southeastern Montana, plans to conduct preconstruction activities for a 30-MW wind facility. The tribe was awarded a feasibility study grant in FY2002 for wind resource monitoring, and is accelerating the study and proceeding with development after the collected resource data was correlated to long-term wind resource data from a nearby site, and the resources confirmed. Activities include permitting, avian and cultural assessments, and the transmission and interconnection studies needed to obtain financing and power purchase agreements.

Project Description

The development grant will focus on leveraging the funds expended to date from the feasibility grant awarded to the Northern Cheyenne in October 2002 in the preconstruction development of a 30 MW wind energy generation facility. For information on this feasibility study, see the 2002 project.

Under this agreement, the Northern Cheyenne shall complete all of the preconstruction development activities, including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting requirements, for a 30-megawatt commercial wind facility on lands selected and owned by the Northern Cheyenne (Tribal Trust Land). Further, the process shall include the transmission and interconnection studies and subsequent agreements required to deliver energy onto and through the transmission system to a specific set of potential purchasers. The process shall deliver all the studies, permits and contracts (with the exception of a power purchase agreement) sufficient for obtaining project financing from institutional investors or the Rural Utilities Services Administration (RUS) within the Department of Agriculture. The completion of the power purchase agreement will be pursued on a best-efforts basis, the success of which is primarily dependent upon the market for renewable energy at the time the preconstruction studies and permits are completed.


The objectives of the feasibility assessment, and the subsequent wind project development, are to maximize the economic benefits to the Tribe and to create employment for Tribal members. An additional benefit of working with Disgen is Disgen's willingness to transfer its development knowledge to Tribal members as a first step in creating Tribal development capabilities. The specific feasibility study objectives focus on the qualification of the selected site as a candidate for the development, financing, construction and operation of a commercial wind energy generation facility.


The development grant will focus on leveraging the funds expended to date from the feasibility grant awarded to the Northern Cheyenne in September 2002 in the preconstruction development of a 30 MW wind energy generation facility. The objectives of the wind project development process are to maximize the economic benefits to the Tribe and to create employment for tribal members.

The specific development proposal objectives focus on the completion of all the actions required to qualify a specific project for financing and construction of the 30 MW wind facility. The NCT and Disgen possess the combined skills to complete all these actions with the exception of the power purchase agreement, which will be driven by the marketplace. The consummation of a power purchase agreement cannot be totally assured because the future market conditions are simply unknown. In order to qualify for commercial financing, the project will require specific and detailed information, derived from the following project tasks:

  1. Continued monitoring of the wind resource;

  2. Detailed Avian Assessment suitable for obtaining permits from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA);

  3. Detailed cultural assessment suitable for obtaining permits from the BIA and to the satisfaction of the Tribal Historical Preservation Offices (THPO);

  4. Preparation and filing of a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) Report and obtaining permits;

  5. Completion of an Interconnection Feasibility Study and an Interconnection Systems Impact Study with Tongue River Electric Cooperative (TRECO);

  6. Execution of an interconnection agreement with TRECO;

  7. Analyzing and selection of a wind turbine based on the wind resource;

  8. Performing a geotechnical analyses and foundation design suitable for construction estimates;

  9. Producing a photo-simulations suitable for community information meetings;

  10. Holding six community information meetings;

  11. Identifying and meeting with prospective power purchasers;

  12. Assessment of financing alternatives;

  13. Obtaining a power purchase agreement; and

  14. Obtaining financing commitments from at least one source.


The Northern Cheyenne Tribe (NCT), located in Rosebud and Bighorn Counties in southeastern Montana is a recipient of a Department of Energy Renewable Energy Feasibility Study Grant under the "Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands FY2002" program. The NCT selected a wind consultant to manage the project. The feasibility study is scheduled to be complete in March 2004. However, the availability of long-term wind data, discovered after the initial award, has provided for the acceleration of the feasibility study. While customarily requiring one year of wind studies to qualify a site, the long-term data has made possible a correlation process that provides sufficient information to accelerate the schedule.

In November 2002, a 50-meter meteorological (MET) tower was installed in proximity to the now-selected project site. The site is 1,900 acres, and is east of Lame Deer, Montana, on the north side of US Hwy 212. The correlation process, referred to above, compared the data from this tower to the 11 years of wind data collected as part of the environmental assessment of the 2250 MW Colstrip coal-fired power plant 26 miles to the north. The correlation process resulted in expected wind speeds of 16.7 mph at a 65 m hub height and an expected Capacity Factor of 34%. This data represents, an economically competitive wind site for the Montana markets. Further, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) MET tower (20 m) was installed in the project area in February 2003. This tower will provide additional assurances in the correlation process.

The electric utility providing service to the NCT Reservation is Tongue River Electric Cooperative (TRECO), located in Ashland, Montana on the eastern boundary of the reservation. Representatives from the Tribe and Disgen have met with the General Manager and CEO of TRECO, who described the electrical system serving the reservation. The primary system is a 69,000-volt (69 kV) three-phase line running from Colstrip south to Lame Deer, east to the community of Ashland and back to Colstrip. The General Manager indicated that a 30 MW wind energy facility could be interconnected to the 69 kV line, which runs adjacent to the project area. It should be emphasized that an Interconnection Feasibility Study will be required to confirm this opinion and an additional System Impact Study may be required.

Under the current Wind Energy Feasibility Study grant a Phase I Avian Resource Assessment study was completed. The result, no significant impacts were identified. However, in order to meet the permitting requirements of NEPA, a yearlong field study of the project area must be conducted. This study is required for either an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA.

The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and NEPA require a comprehensive cultural review, overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The customary BIA process is to conduct an on-site inspection of the property and integrate those findings with the catalogued "known significant cultural sites." The inspection and review of existing data must be done, or overseen by, a "BIA Permitted Contractor." However, the Northern Cheyenne and several other tribes have created Tribal Historical Preservation Offices (THPO) that require cultural studies to include oral interviews ("Ethnographic Studies") with Tribal Elders, conducted in the native language. These interviews are valuable and identify areas of concern other than physical evidence.

The project effort to date has provided the following significant information:

  1. The project location is on Tribal Trust Land; benefiting the NCT.

  2. The wind resource is sufficient for an economic wind project.

  3. The preliminary environmental studies identified no significant impacts.
  4. The local utility has indicated cooperativeness for interconnection.

  5. Potential renewable energy power purchasers exist in the Montana market.

  6. Potential project investors have been identified.

Project Location

The Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe is a Federally Recognized Sovereign Nation, located in Big Horn and Rosebud counties in southeastern Montana. The property selected is east of Lame Deer, Montana, on the north side of US Hwy 212. The property consists of approximately 1,900 acres.

Project Status

This project is complete. For details, see the final report (PDF 13.3 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's FY2003 solicitation, "Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands," and started September 2003. For more information, see the project status reports from November 2003 (PDF 287 KB), October 2004 (PDF 775 KB), October 2005 (PDF 690 KB) and October 2006 (PDF 5.7 MB). For information on the earlier feasibility study, see the 2002 project. Download Adobe Reader.

For additional information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Joe Little Coyote
Northern Cheyenne Tribe
P.O. Box 128
Lame Deer, MT 59043
Telephone: (406) 477-6558
Facsimile: (406) 477-8510

Dale Osborn, President
Distributed Generation Systems
2334 Pine Tree Lane
Evergreen, CO 80439
Telephone: (303) 674-2551
Facsimile: (303) 674-8185