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Wind Power for the Wastewater Treatment Plant

In late 1999, the Town of Browning, Montana and the Blackfeet Nation installed four Bergey Excel 10-kilowatt (kW) wind turbines adjacent to the Town's sewage treatment plant. The turbines provided about one-quarter of the plant's electricity, displacing energy bought from the grid. Bergey Windpower News

Location: Browning, Montana
Type of System: rid-connected, distributed-generation
Project Status: The project formally extends through 2002
Last Updated: 27 Feb 2001

The potential for wind energy development on Native American Reservations in the Great Plains has been discussed for the past 10-15 years. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Field Verification Project, the Blackfeet Nation and the Town of Browning, Montana received funding to install four Bergey Excel wind turbines to displace some of the electricity used at the Browning Waste Water Treatment Plant. To simplify matters, the project was so designed that practically all the energy produced was consumed on site, although the turbines were grid connected.

The potential for replication of this project is high. Many Native American communities have grid electrical loads that could be partially met with wind power. This project is subsequent to the Blackfeet 100-kW Wind Turbine Demonstration Project. Currently, the Blackfeet have an agreement with SeaWest WindPower for a developing an additional 22.8-megawatt (MW) wind farm on tribal land. This project is part of an effort to encourage use of renewable energy resources found on many reservations.

Goals and Objectives
Displace grid electricity used at the Browning Waste Water Treatment Plant.


Participants: Siyeh Corporation, Marty Wilde, Blackfeet Indian Housing Authority, Town of Browning, State of Montana, Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Bergey WindPower Company.

Organizational Structure: Siyeh is in overall charge of the project with Marty Wilde taking the lead. Responsibilities include coordination of the construction of the civil works, installation of the turbine, maintenance, and project documentation. Once the official 3-year project is completed, the turbines will become the property of the Town of Browning.

Site Identification and Resource Assessment: Browning has a good wind resource. The site is adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant. Because the project objective is to displace grid electricity, the site had to be near the treatment plant.

Installation: Siyeh and Marty Wilde coordinated the construction of the civil works. Bergey technician Peter Hubner supervised installation of the turbines.

Community Involvement: Local manpower was used to construct the civil works and install the turbine.


System Description (Components/Size/Brand/Number): 4 Bergey Excel/S 10-KW wind turbines on 100-ft towers.

Technical Performance: The turbines have operated reliably during this project. Their installation involved a new type of inverter that initially had some teething problems. These problems were overcome, leading to a successful installation.

Provisions for monitoring and evaluation: A data acquisitions system (DAS) is in place for monitoring the turbines during the 3-year project period.


Financing Arrangements (Financing/Type/Rate of Return): This project was funded primarily with a DOE grant ($180,000 cash). Other project participants also made cash and in-kind contributions (Blackfeet Housing Authority, $25,000 cash; Town of Browning, $25,000 cash; Siyeh, $5,000 in-kind).

Cost recovery mechanisms and rates: the wastewater treatment plant consumes all the electricity produced by this project. The system provides about one-quarter of the plant's usage.

When the project manager resigned in the summer of 2000, the remaining project participants had difficulty keeping the project on track. This project has shown the dangers of allowing a project to depend too heavily upon one person. In the end, NREL technicians from Colorado had to be dispatched to assist with the DAS system.