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Workers Ronnie Chilton and Tony Tibbetts pour concrete for the base of the wind turbine to be completed this spring outside the former Callaway school.

Windmill project underway at former Callaway School

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CALLAWAY -- This winter, if you happen to be driving past the former Callaway Elementary School building, you may notice a hole in the ground where the baseball diamond's outfield used to be.

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The former ballfield will soon be the site of a new 75-kilowatt, Loland wind turbine that will be used to power the old school building, which now houses the headquarters of the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP).

The wind turbine project was a collaborative effort of the WELRP and Honor the Earth, a national organization that works primarily on tribal reservations and with native organizations to promote renewable, clean energy.

The two organizations, along with Native Harvest, share offices in the Callaway building, said Nellis Kennedy, a national campaign associate with Honor the Earth.

"We recently excavated the hole and poured the foundation (for the turbine)," Kennedy said. "We hope to have it up and running by March or April."

A second turbine is expected to be up and running at the Callaway site by the end of the year or early 2010, Kennedy added.

Once the turbines are functional, they will be used to fully power the WELRP building. The excess power generated will then be sold back to Ottertail Power Company for use by its customers.

"We are hoping Ottertail Power can work well with us, and new wind projects in our region," said Winona LaDuke, executive director of WELRP and Honor the Earth. "We really think this is a win-win situation for the communities."

"The renewable energy credits (REC's) will be sold to a native company, Native Energy," Kennedy added.

Though it was "a real challenge" to get the foundation work done during the winter months, it will be ready for the turbine to be erected in the spring.

"A large portion of the project has been made possible by Tony Tibbetts," Kennedy said. "He helped Winona (LaDuke, executive director of both WELRP and Honor the Earth) and I a great deal."

All of the labor for the project has been supplied by "local native individuals who have come forward to help us," she added, noting that the supplies were provided by contractors out of North Dakota.

"Some of the companies were concerned about the cold weather, but they were aware of how to pour a foundation and erect a turbine in cold weather, so that's been a real blessing," said Kennedy.

In addition to the two Callaway turbines, Honor the Earth is also working with the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa on putting up a 1.5-megawatt turbine on their reservation, "but we're still in the very beginning stages of that," Kennedy said.

The ultimate goal, she added, is "to create strategies for tribes to invest in clean power. We're promoting solar as well. We hope to do a solar insulation project on the Navajo reservation either late this year or early next year."

For more information about the wind turbine project and Honor the Earth, contact Nellis Kennedy at 218-375-3200, or visit the Web site, www.honorearth.org.

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