WELCH — Prairie Island Indian Community's net-zero emissions project is taking shape.

The tribe this week announced it has formed a team led by Indian Energy and Chief Strategy Group -- both Native American-owned companies -- to help create an energy system that results in net-zero emissions.

Prairie Island received a $46 million appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature in 2020 to develop and execute a comprehensive renewable energy plan that focuses on conservation, on-site renewable energy generation and sustainability initiatives.

“We are changing our tribe’s future with this net-zero project,” Tribal Council President Shelley Buck said in a news release. “We found partners that not only understand how to create the right energy solution, but they also understand Native culture and the importance of what this project means to our sovereignty and our future. That’s exciting.”

Scientists define net-zero emissions as removing human-produced carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through technological and/or natural means.

The team has a busy five months ahead, developing a comprehensive project plan that must be filed with the state by July 1, 2021.

Indian Energy will help to create the strategic plan for the net-zero project as well as guide the tribe and the process to a successful conclusion, IE founder and CEO Allen G. Cadreau said.

“We look forward to meeting with all stakeholders to listen, learn and understand the tribe’s needs and develop a plan that is feasible, flexible and incremental," he added.

IE is a microgrid development and systems integration firm based in California. 

A microgrid, according to microgridknowledge.com is a self-sufficient energy system. Examples include college campuses and medical complexes. These grids might includes solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal energy and more.

IE focuses primarily on developing energy solutions for tribes, as well as the United States Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

Chief Strategy Group also assists tribes. Its focus is on establishing long-term financial and operational strategies. The company is based in North Carolina.

“As an all-Native company, Chief Strategy Group is extremely excited to partner with Indian Energy LLC for this initiative for the Prairie Island Indian Community. This net-zero energy project will set a high benchmark for Indian Country,” said CSG President and founder Michell Hicks.

He said that the company will provide a custom solution that is reflective of Prairie Island's sovereignty and unique strengths. His goal is to help the Prairie Island Indian Community create a project its members are proud of and that has a positive impact for future generations.

The project team also includes NV5, an international energy engineering and consulting firm, and The Mendota Group, a Minnesota-based consultancy that focuses on sustainability initiatives.

“Our team of subject matter experts will explore all technologies, strategies and additional resources available to Prairie Island Indian Community to maximize the value of the grant funds,” said Henry J Boulley Jr, COO of Indian Energy.

Money for the project comes from the state’s renewable development account, which was established as a condition of allowing Xcel Energy to temporarily store nuclear waste in dry casks outside its nuclear power plant that is adjacent to the tribe’s reservation. The Legislature approved temporary dry-cask storage in 1994.

“For too long, our tribe has been burdened by the negative impact of energy production, specifically nuclear power and nuclear waste. This legislation gives us the power to change that narrative and use energy production as a force for good," Buck told the Republican Eagle in December 2020.

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