Wind Energy Project Gets Boost from Ben & Jerry’s

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(Host) Visitors to Ben and Jerry’s “One World-One Heart” festival in Warren Saturday may have seen a scale model wind turbine near the main stage. The exhibit highlighted an effort by two Vermont companies to help develop a wind energy project on a South Dakota Indian reservation.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The way Pat Spears describes it, wind is an inexhaustible energy resource of the northern plains. Spears is a member of the Lower Brule Sioux tribe in South Dakota. He says the winds that blow across his land can also lift some of the poorest regions of the country out of poverty:

(Spears) “We’re talking about the Cheyenne River Reservation, the Crow Creek Reservation and the Rosebud Reservation, Pine Ride Reservations out there. So this is the long term benefit of development of wind for us really, is to generate income, jobs and some revenue to restore economies that have been promised under treaties with the US government and never been fulfilled. We believe in the wind. The wind is a gift and the wind has power. Wind is blessings.”

(Dillon) Spears is president of an inter-tribal council that’s building a 750 kilowatt wind turbine on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. He’s in Vermont to promote a unique fundraising system that taps the public’s concern about climate change to raise money for clean energy projects.

The Vermont connection is Native Energy, a company based in North Ferrisburgh. Native Energy hopes to raise 10-20% of the cost of the South Dakota wind project. As company President Tom Boucher explains, the goal is to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels that cause global warming:

(Boucher) “Everybody must use energy, to heat their home to power their lights and appliances. But this is a way you can live up to the responsibility of offsetting the emissions associated with that. What better way than to build new wind farms? What better way than to help build the first Native American wind farm?”

(Dillon) Boucher says every $120 raised by his company pays for enough wind power to offset about 12 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s about how much CO-2 it takes to heat and power the average home in the U.S.

Ben and Jerry’s – which has made environmental concerns part of its corporate philosophy – will showcase the Native Energy project at its festival this weekend. The ice cream company also will donate some money to help build the wind plant.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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