The site of a former Indian boarding school in Kay County, Oklahoma will soon become the largest wind farm on tribal land in the United States. The Cherokee Nation has partnered with Chicago-based PNE Wind USA Inc. to develop a 90-turbine wind farm, which is estimated to generate $16 million over the next two decades. Development will start immediately on 6,000 acres of the former property of the Chilocco Indian School, which operated from 1884 to 1980.
The 153-megawatt wind farm will power homes, businesses and farms of the southwest grid region.
“The Cherokee Nation has an opportunity to be a leader among Indian nations in renewable energy,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Speaker Chuck Hoskin, Jr. “The tribe will be able to utilize an underutilized resource. We talk a lot about protecting our environment and conserving our resources, so this is a prime opportunity to put words into action.”
The Cherokee Nation owns half of the land on which the wind farm will sit. Chilocco was ideal because of its wind resources, and environmental studies show it will not curtail the migratory bird population. The entire Chilocco wind farm will encompass 6,000 acres total. The other 3,000 acres is owned by four other tribes, the Kaw, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee and Ponca nations.
The tribal council voted 14-2 to approve the wind farm.
“The Cherokee Nation is playing a significant role in creating new green jobs and expects to play a key role in Oklahoma's emerging wind energy industry,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said in a press release. “The Cherokee Nation is committed to growing the Oklahoma economy, helping reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and creating sustainable jobs for our people in the renewable energy sector.”