A Native American tribe in Minnesota has revolutionized their reservation’s energy production, combining their beliefs with modern sustainable technologies.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) incorporated biomass fuel production, wind energy and water reclamation on their Prior Lake, MN, reservation to create well-functioning renewable sources of energy and reduce dependency on oil production and natural gas.
The tribe’s commitment to being a good steward of the earth is the driving force behind their environmentally-friendly initiatives.
According to the tribe’s website, their term for earth, “Unci Maka,” translates to “Grandmother Earth,” indicative of the kinship relationship between the SMSC people and the earth.
“As a relative, the Dakota people are dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment,” the site says.
One of the biggest steps the SMSC has taken is constructing the Koda Energy Plant.
The plant burns malting and food processing byproducts, raw materials such as wood chips and sawdust, bio-solids, and dry grasses to generate approximately 12.5 to 24.1 megawatts of electricity.
Waste heat created from the electrical generation is used by Rahr Malting, one of Koda’s partners and a main source for the biomass material. Excess energy that is not used by Rahr or the SMSC is sold to Xcel Energy and placed back on the grid.
A wind turbine provides another primary energy source for the Shakopee Community, creating 1.5 megawatts of energy metered at the nearby Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative (MVEC) and sold to their supplier, Basin Energy.
Although the Community is located in a low-wind site, the wind turbine generates energy during high-wind periods that is stored for use during low-wind periods.
Water reclamation has also been an important area for the SMSC over the past twenty years.
Until 2006, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community had to make use of an older regional government Water Reclamation Facility (WRF) for its sewer system, which created several problems.
The facility dumped waste directly into the Minnesota River, a leading cause of water pollution in the area. The sewer system was outsourced to the government facility, which required the Community to make formal requests for extra units whenever new housing was built.
To remedy these problems, the SMSC built its own WRF in 2005, completed in 2006. As a result, the Community is able to use treated effluent for irrigation purposes, and has reduced groundwater use by 35 million gallons per year.
The facility also boasts the latest technology in water reclamation, using biologically aerated filtration systems to clean the reclaimed water. Remaining Biosolids are removed to the irrigation system, dried, compressed, and used as fertilizer at the local golf resort and farms.
Because of the SMSC’s conservation efforts, the area’s dependency on oil and gas has been reduced to almost zero percent, an accomplishment pleasing to grandmother earth.