SD reservation radio station to fix wind turbine

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) April 2012

A wind turbine near Porcupine is being rebuilt to power a radio station on the Pine Ridge reservation.

The Rapid City Journal reports ( ) that the wind turbine was supposed to power the KILI radio station but broke down shortly after it was built in 2008.

It was meant to be part of a pilot project showing how wind turbines can save money and power small buildings. But the brakes and control panel on the turbine didn’t work right, and before KILI ever took control of the turbine, the gearbox broke, said Tom Casey, a co-manager of the station.

“We got into this because it would be nice to be a role model and show people renewable energy is possible on a small scale,” Casey said. “If there’s a wind turbine that’s available and steady and you can count on and can contribute to electrical use at the station, that would be fantastic.”

Officials said it should be rebuilt and running again by the end of the summer.

The wind turbine was the first one installed on the reservation.

KILI’s light bill was between $1,200 and $1,500 per month in 2008 and has nearly doubled since then to $2,500 per month, Casey said. The 2008 turbine, which was purchased used from a Montana-based engineering firm, was designed to produce 65 kilowatts of electricity.

Honor the Earth, the company spearheading the project, initially thought the turbine would produce enough energy to power the station with some left over, but by the time the project was finished, it filled only about 40 percent of the station’s needs, Casey said. At that point, he was worried it would cost more than it was worth to maintain and insure.

“When you’re driving around and see one of the wind turbines, they’re like 200 feet high, and they’re majestic, and they move,” he said. “You don’t understand until one is in your yard that it’s a machine with moving parts and it needs to be maintained.”

Since the turbine broke down, Honor the Earth has been in negotiations with the Minnesota company that supplied the original turbine, said Winona LaDuke, chief executive officer of the Minnesota-based Native American organization that helps organize and raise money for Native American sustainable food and energy projects.