DANBURY, Wis., May 14, 2002 — The St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin have begun a study to assess the feasibility of developing a small-scale natural gas-fired power plant on reservation land in Danbury.
The plant would produce from 70 to 100 megawatts of electricity for sale into the wholesale power market.
St. Croix Tribal Chairman Elmer Jay Emery said tribal officials are aware of Wisconsin’s looming energy shortage. State public utility executives have confirmed that future demand for electricity will increase faster than the state’s generating capacity.
As much as 7,000 megawatts of new generating capacity may be needed to meet the demand of the next decade and beyond. Local energy suppliers have confirmed that the Danbury area could benefit from additional generating capacity.
At the federal level, the Bush administration has directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to actively promote the development of new generating capacity throughout the U.S. Officials at DOE have expressed interest in smaller-scale, more environmentally friendly plants developed to meet local and regional needs.
Tribal officials commissioned and secured outside funding for the study to determine precisely where and how the plant should be developed. When the study is complete, they plan to sell the project to a utility company or other investors who would actually build the facility under a negotiated agreement with the tribe.
The St. Croix Tribe secured outside funding for the study from a Houston, Texas group led by Kyle Tauch, a well-known commercial real estate developer. The tribe has retained E.Vironment, a business and environmental consulting firm also based in Houston, to manage the study project. The study will examine all aspects of the proposed development, including site requirements, environmental considerations, community relations concerns, power industry regulatory issues, fuel supply factors and energy market variables. The Washington, D.C. law firm of O’Connor & Hannan, L.L.P. is serving as counsel to the project.
In addition to creating jobs and a new revenue stream for the tribe, Emery said the power plant might also benefit the St. Croix Waters Fishery, the new state-of-the-art indoor recirculating aquaculture facility opened by the tribe last year. The fishery currently produces yellow perch and hybrid striped bass for sale to the restaurant and wholesale food market in the U.S. The 158,000-square foot complex is capable of producing up to 3.3 million pounds annually of a wide variety of fresh fish. The fishery’s extensive water pumping, heating, cooling, feeding, water filtration and treatment systems are all automatic with computerized monitoring controls, and they rely on a constant, stable energy supply. Because the facility is so energy-intensive, controlling energy costs is key to the venture’s profitability.
“We’re excited by this opportunity to provide a more abundant and reliable energy supply for the region, and potentially for our aquaculture facility,” Emery said. “We also see this project as very consistent with our overall goals for capital development and diversification of the tribe’s economic base. It’s a win-win opportunity for everybody.”
St. Croix tribal officials believe the development of small regional power plants could be an attractive option for other tribes in the midwest and across the nation. “We think our project could serve as a model for other tribes looking to diversify their economies and attract new jobs and capital investment to the reservation,” Emery said. “St. Croix would be more than willing to work with any other tribes who might be interested in pursuing similar opportunities in the energy business.”
For more information: http://www.evironment.cc , and click on “St. Croix Project Overview.”