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Callaway to celebrate windmill

The wind turbine now sits at the old Callaway Elementary School field. Once it's up and running, it will power the White Earth Land Recovery building.

According to a study done by the White Earth Land Recovery Project, about 25 percent of the tribal economy is spent on energy.

"That's a horrible economical leak in the tribal economy," said Honor the Earth National Campaign Associate Nellis Kennedy-Howard.

The White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth have erected a Loland 75 kilowatt wind turbine and will celebrate its completion this Friday.

The wind turbine sits at the former Callaway Elementary School field and will power nonprofit organizations housed at the White Earth Land Recovery building.

Any surplus power will eventually be sold to Otter Tail Power Company, Kennedy-Howard said.

The idea to install the $80,000 turbine came forth in 2007, with construction beginning in the winter of 2008.

Additional costs were needed to finish the installation and maintenance of the wind turbine, but with grants from Citgo Petroleum and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community, the reservation is on its way to becoming more green.

"Clean energy is a viable alternative to fossil fuel," Kennedy-Howard said. "The digging up and burning of coal isn't necessary when clean energy is available."

The project has created several jobs for White Earth members, she added, and at least two more permanent jobs will be created to maintain the turbine once it's up and running at full capacity.

White Earth Land Recovery Project with Honor the Earth are waiting to complete an "inner-connect" agreement with Otter Tail Power Company before the turbine can run.

And since there is no agreement yet, it's difficult to determine how long it will take for the tower to pay for itself. There is no estimate on how much excess power will be sold back to the Otter Tail power grid.

"It has taken a bit longer than we anticipated, but there is definitely a learning curve along the way," Kennedy-Howard said.

The organizations hope the training and knowledge they gained from erecting the turbine will come in handy in the future when they're ready to put up a second one.

Many of the employees who worked on the project may be invited back to contribute their expertise when it's time to build a second tower.

The White Earth Reservation, like many other tribal lands, is some of the windiest lands -- a suitable location for wind and solar power, Kennedy-Howard said.

"We can't be left behind in the green energy economy," she said.

On Friday, June 11 at noon, the White Earth Land Recovery Project invites the public to attend a celebratory event for the installation of the Loland 75 kilowatt wind turbine. Information on the project will be presented along with food and ice cream.