A 2-megawatt anaerobic digester and biogas generation facility converts food waste into electricity to power 1,500 homes. Photo from Forest County Potawatomi Community.
Aerial view of the anaerobic digester and biogas generation facility. Photo from Forest County Potawatomi Community.
A 30-kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic array powers the Tribe’s administration building in Milwaukee. Photo from Forest County Potawatomi Community.
In pursuit of its long-term energy goal to reduce its carbon footprint to zero, the Forest County Potawatomi Community has assumed a leadership role in creating a sustainable and healthy world. Since adopting its environmental mission statement in November 2008, the Community has made significant strides toward implementing several types of renewable energy to power its tribal facilities.
These efforts were recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA's) Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use. Forest County Potawatomi Community was ranked among the Top 100 and Top 30 Local Government green power users in 2014. To achieve this ranking, an organization must use 100% green power and generate the most green power on site. The Forest County Potawatomi Community uses 105% green power and generates more than 55 million kilowatt-hours of power annually from renewables.
With funding and technical assistance from DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team Program and Tribal Energy Program, the Tribe has completed numerous renewable energy projects to help meet its sustainability goals, including:
- A 30-kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar photovoltaic array that powers the Tribe’s administration building in Milwaukee
- A 2-megawatt anaerobic digester and biogas generation facility that converts food waste into electricity to power 1,500 homes
- An LED lighting project at the Tribe’s parking facilities that reduced electricity use by more than 47%
- Energy efficiency upgrades to the Tribe’s historic Wunder Hall building, which now houses the Tribe’s economic development center, expected to save the Tribe more than 50% on energy costs
- Energy audits of the Tribe’s Carter Hotel and Casino to identify potential energy and money-saving upgrades.
“Under the leadership of Chairman Gus Frank, as well as the Potawatomi government and tribal executive leadership, the Community has become a true leader in energy efficiency in Indian Country. They have already done a great deal around facility-scale improvements and have set out a clear vision of sustainable energy for themselves and their community,” said DOE Office of Indian Energy Director Tracey A. LeBeau.
In November 2013, Forest County Potawatomi Community was competitively selected as one of nine tribal clean energy projects to receive funding from DOE to install solar panels on eight additional tribal facilities in Milwaukee and Forest counties–potentially displacing up to 70% of the total energy used by each of the buildings.
According to Frank, “Many Tribes, including the Forest County Potawatomi Community, have land holdings and natural resources (e.g., sun, wind, timber) necessary for renewable energy projects. However, more funding and training are necessary for Tribes to fully recognize these opportunities.”
In an effort to share information about the Tribe's efforts to fulfill its mission, Forest County Potowatomi Community Chief Financial Officer Kevin Hanson presented at the Tribal Leader Forum on “Financing and Investing in Tribal Renewable Energy Projects,” hosted by the DOE Office of Indian Energy on May 14, 2014. Through events like the Tribal Leader Forums, the DOE Office of Indian Energy supports smart tribal energy development through collaboration and information sharing.
This summer, the DOE Office of Indian Energy is hosting three regional in-person workshops focused on developing commercial-scale and community- and facility-scale tribal energy projects. The workshops give tribal leaders and professionals in-depth, hands-on training on how to navigate the path to renewable energy project development and finance. Learn more about other tribal education and training opportunities.