Blackfeet College Utilizing Wind

Nov 15th, 1996 | By | Category: 8-3: Ceremony, Tribal College News

Legends abound about the wind on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana. For more than a decade, scientists, economist, and government officials have been measuring and evaluating the wind that flows from the mountains in Glacier National Park across the plains of the Blackfeet Reservation. Now the Blackfeet Community College has turned the talk to action and constructed the first utility-scale wind turbine generating facility. With a capacity of 100 kilowatts, the turbine provides power to offset the college’s electric costs through an arrangement with the local utility, Glacier Electric Cooperative. It could generate enough power to supply the electricity for 30-50 average houses.

The college plans to demonstrate the potential and answer questions about the potential for larger scale development in coming years. The college has several educational objectives: to increase public awareness and acceptance of wind energy; to provide technical training, business training, and environmental studies; and to accumulate local data and experience.

Oil and gas has always provided a significant share of tribal and individual Indian income, but oil production is dropping. Previous studies have estimated that reservation winds could produce as much as 3,000 megawatts or the equivalent of three large nuclear reactors, according to Martin Wilde, an engineer hired by Blackfeet Community College in 1993 as the director of the Wind Energy Technology Development Program.

Sixty-five percent of the funding has been provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the rest by the project partners. The project also involves the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, Zond Systems, Inc., and educators from Montana State University.

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