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Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians - 2003 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Location: Red Lake, MN
Project Title: Red Lake Reservation Biomass Energy and Bio-based Product Feasibility Study
Type of Application: Feasibility
DOE Grant Number: DE-FC36-03GO13123
Project Amounts:
DOE: $182,642
Awardee: $17,000
Total: $199,642
Project Status: See project status
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: September 2003
End: December 2004


The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, located in the northwest corner of Minnesota near the Canadian border, will assess the potential to expand the use of biomass resources for energy autonomy and economic development on tribal lands. Specifically, the tribe will evaluate the technical, market, financial, and cultural aspects of using its extensive, forested lands to create a sustainable bioproducts-based business and will develop a business plan to guide tribal industry development.

Project Description

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians proposes to assess the potential to expand the use of biomass resources for energy autonomy and economic development on tribal lands. Specifically, the Tribe will evaluate the technical, market, financial, and cultural aspects of using extensive, forested tribal lands to create a sustainable bioproducts-based business. The project will result in development of a business plan for guiding industry development by the Tribe. Anticipated project benefits include new employment opportunities for tribal members and increased renewable energy use.


The overall intent of this project is to assess the technical and economic feasibility of utilizing biomass resources by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians with the goal of producing a business plan to provide the basis for a new economic development opportunity. Areas of interest include power generation, use of biomass for thermal needs, bio-fuel production, and bio-products. Specific objectives include assessing the biomass resource, evaluating local utility issues for power generation, performing preliminary site identification efforts, assessing thermal requirements in buildings and other thermal loads, characterizing current biomass technologies for power production, bio-fuels, and other relevant equipment, preparing pro forma financial projections, and creating a business plan for a sustainable Tribally operation.


To meet the objectives of the project, both technical and economic / market analyses combined with on-going input and support from the Tribe is needed. The implementation approach will match the technical tasks with Tribal interests by forming an Advisory Committee comprised of members of the Red Lake Energy Task force and other business leaders. The Advisory Committee will provide insight and guidance into tribal needs to ensure close coordination between on-going tribal efforts and the business planning efforts. In this manner we will insure Tribal interests, business strengths and weaknesses, and cultural values are reflected in the final product.

The work effort includes a biomass resource assessment, characterization of power generation and liquid fuels technologies, analysis of tribal thermal loads at existing and planned facilities, evaluation of utility issues surrounding biomass energy, market assessment for power including green tags, evaluation of the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of biomass utilization and preparation of a business plan to guide development of tribal biomass energy and bio-based product enterprises.

The business plan will serve as a product and tool for tribal members to realistically assess biomass industry options and a vehicle for implementing those business opportunities. It will provide information on business forms and management requirements, labor force requirements, capital and operating costs for various technologies, potential plant locations, current product markets, competing products, marketing strategies, and potential risks for various business opportunities. The business plan will discuss the possibility of developing a tribal utility authority as a means of tribal ownership of a biomass power plant that would provide power to the reservation and sell excess power back to the power grid.


In the last two years, Red Lake members have worked with the Energy CENTS Coalition to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs for tribal members. Through this process, Red Lake members learned more about energy issues generally-the level of their energy consumption, energy efficiency measures, and renewable energy potential on tribal land. The Red Lake Energy Task Force was formed to seek the support of the Tribal Council to create a strategy for increasing the energy efficiency and autonomy of the Red Lake Band. On February 11, 2003, the Red Lake Tribal Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting efforts to investigate opportunities to develop a more sustainable tribal energy future. Investigation of the potential for biomass energy on the reservation is one Task Force goal.

Project Location

The Red Lake Reservation is located in the northwest corner of Minnesota, about 160 miles from the Canadian border. The reservation is 1,259 square miles in area. It is rural, containing forests, wetlands, brush and grasslands, and two large connected freshwater lakes: Upper and Lower Red Lake. Along the southern shore of the lower lake are the communities of Little Rock, Red Lake and Redby. Thirty-five miles north, on the peninsula between the two lakes, is a fourth community, Ponemah. The scope of the project covers the entire Red Lake Reservation, and will also focus on potentially available biomass resources from nearby public and privately owned forest lands within an economic hauling distance of the Reservation. Red Lake is a "closed" reservation, meaning all of its land is owned in concert by all of its enrolled tribal members.

The Red Lake Band owns an additional 156,067 acres of land outside the Reservation, 83,354 of which are forested. The land north of the reservation once was ceded to the federal government and was then given back (restored) to the Tribe. The Northwest Angle is a finger of land that juts into Canada, most of which is owned by Red Lake.

Project Status

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's FY2003 solicitation, "Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands" and started September 2003. The November 2003 (PDF 816 KB) and October 2004 (PDF 774 KB) presentations provide additional information. Download Adobe Reader.

For other information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Robert Lintelmann
Forestry Program Director
Red Lake Band of Chippewa
P.O. Box 279
Red Lake, MN 56671
Telephone: (218) 679-3959
Facsimile: (218) 679-2830

Pam Marshall, Executive Director
Energy CENTS Coalition
823 East Seventh Street
St. Paul, MN 55106
Telephone: (651) 774-9010
Facsimile: (651) 774-0445