Seneca Nation develops energy sufficiency
By Andrea Richard
In a move toward self-determination, the Seneca Nation of Indians earlier this year completed construction of a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine project on its western New York reservation. The wind turbine will provide the Nation clean energy, economic development opportunities, job creation, and new revenue streams. All of which will strengthen the tribe’s sovereignty and bolster its environmental sensibilities.
Over two and a half years, SNI a strategic energy action plan and successfully applied for a U.S. Department of Energy First Steps Toward Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy grant in 2003. The the DOE awarded the tribe three grants, totaling $1.5 million, and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority gave $1 million.
In 2007, the Nation established Seneca Energy, a wholly owned tribal corporation. Its mission is to build renewable energy assets, train staff, and promote the tribe’s energy self-sufficiency.
The Nation has 7,800 enrolled members and three territories—Allegany, Cattaraugus and Salamanca, spanning 30,984 acres. The Seneca Nation is made up of six nations in the Iroquois Confederacy. SNI members located in the rural Cattaraugus territory don’t have access to affordable energy and pay up to three times more for utilities, which creates hardship. This wind turbine project is a solution to reduce Cattaraugus residents’ electricity costs. Another one is planned for the rural Allegany terrority.
The Seneca Nation has created a “virtual utility service” as stated in a report by the DOE. Further, it does not own distribution assets, but rather will give customers monthly bill credits. Utility customers will receive a $25 monthly credit on their utility bill, nearly 30 percent in savings.
With wind development, the Nation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The turbine has a projected lifetime of 20 to 25 year.
“The tribe saw opportunities to diversify its economy, reduce emissions, and deploy renewable energy,” says Anthony Giacobbe, general manager of Seneca Energy. ♦