DOE to aid two new tribal biomass projects

By Anna Simet | May 24, 2013

The U.S. DOE has announced it will provide technical assistance to five new tribal clean energy projects through its Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team Program, two of which involve a distributed energy biomass system and a waste-to-energy plant.

Through the START program, DOE and national laboratory experts work directly with tribal communities to evaluate project financial and technical feasibility, provide on-going training to community members and help implement a variety of clean energy projects, including energy storage infrastructure, renewable energy deployment and energy efficiency.

One of the biomass projects will be implemented at Chugachmiut Regional Corporation in Port Graham, Alaska, the health and social services provider for seven tribes in the Chugach region of south central Alaska. According to the DOE, the corporation plans to replace a local, community-scale hot water distribution system with a biomass plant that will use local wood to generate power for community buildings in the Native Village of Port Graham. Chugachmiut has already completed pre-construction activities to prepare for the project, and discussed the benefits and impacts of biomass extraction and forest renewal with the local community. The DOE said it will provide assistance by completing technical reviews of existing feasibility studies and proposals on project design and cost, land use, fuel source agreements and permitting.

The second biomass project will be located in Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls, Wis. The Ho-Chunk Nation will receive technical assistance with the development of a 1 to 2-megawatt biomass waste-to-energy plant, according to DOE. The plant could potentially use municipal solid waste, ag waste or other biomass resources. The tribe has already approved a land use agreement, completed zoning, and commissioned a feasibility study for the project. The DOE said it will provide assistance with project-related tasks such as analyzing the project plan, reviewing the technology and potential off-take agreements, examining preliminary permitting plans and evaluating financing options.

The remaining three projects involve solar technologies and are located at Pinoleville Pomo Nation in Ukiah, Calif.; San Carlos Apache Tribe in San Carlos, Ariz.; and Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Ignacio, Colo.

The DOE reports that since its launch in 2012, the START program has helped eleven Native American and Alaska Native communities cut energy waste and deploy local renewable energy projects.