High winds regularly sweep South Dakota's Porcupine Butte, home to the KILI(FM) transmitter tower, making it an ideal location for a wind-power generating station.
In June 2008, the Voice of the Lakota Nation, serving the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of southwestern South Dakota, built a 65 kW wind turbine at the transmitter site, which is also home to the KILI studio building. Thirty years ago, the same building was designed to use solar power to heat its water.
The refurbished Nordtank turbine is capable of generating 92,191 kWh of electricity each year. This will save KILI about US$12,000 annually in utility bills — money that can be better used to maintain the station, while also reducing its carbon footprint.
For KILI, being able to generate its own power is about more than saving money. It also demonstrates the determination of the station to be environmentally responsible while serving listeners on the reservation.
The station allied with two national native organizations — Honor the Earth and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (Intertribal COUP) — to bring the project to fruition.
Initial research into the wind patterns at the KILI transmitter site began six years ago.
"Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world, and active communities have an excellent potential to be a part of that trend," said Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth. "We see the KILI wind turbine as a flagship project, a springboard for a broad, tribal renewable energy initiative."
According to Intertribal COUP President Patrick Spears, tribal wind power can create a "dynamic transformation" in electricity generation, away from fossil fuels and nuclear power and toward energy production that protects the Earth.
At this writing, the station was still the wind-power generator was in a testing phase.
"We are still testing it," said KILI Director Melanie Janis. During a two-day trial, the turbine generated enough power to supply 65 percent of KILI power requirements.
Once the turbine is online fully, said Janis, the station expects to completely generate the power it needs to operate and, hopefully, some surplus energy to sell to the local rural electric cooperative.
— James Careless