'Feasibility Studies' for Tribal 'Clean Energy' Projects Will Cost More Than Actual Projects

February 17, 2012 - 10:38 AM

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama's Energy Department is sending $6.5 million to American Indian tribes to support tribal energy development. More than half of that $6.5 million will be spent on 13 "feasibility studies," which determine whether and how a project will work.

Only $1.3 million will be spent on actual heating projects -- including one that uses wood to heat a tribal visitor center.

"As President Obama highlighted in the State of the Union, the Administration is committed to building an American economy that lasts and leverages our nation's clean energy resources," said Secretary Steven Chu in a new release Thursday. "The awards announced today will help Tribes across the country advance a sustainable energy future for their local communities, spur economic development, and advance innovative clean energy technologies."

The taxpayer money will be spent as follows:

-- $3.6 Million for 13 feasibility studies, which will examine the viability of building biomass power plants, solar and wind installations, and a tidal energy project. The Energy Department estimates that installing renewable energy systems on tribal buildings could reduce energy use by 30 percent.

-- Four renewable energy development projects will receive $1.7 million for "pre-construction" activities, such as permitting, design, financing agreements, and
business plans. Two of these still-in-development-projects involve solar energy, one involves wind, and the other is a biomass-powered heating system.

-- Two projects will receive a total of $1.3 million to "deploy renewable energy technologies to convert waste and other biomass" (wood) to energy.

One project will install "a cordwood-fired biomass energy system, using locally available wood to heat the Tribe’s visitors center." It's not clear from the description if this might be a fireplace or a wood stove.

The other will build a "gasification energy recovery facility." This involves buying four sets of generators to convert synthetic gas generate from municipal solid waste to provide up to 90 percent of the facility's heating needs.

Since 2002, the Energy Department's Tribal Energy Program has provided $36 million to 159 tribal energy projects.