Renewable Energy on American Indian Land

In this Sustainable Energy Seminar, Dr. Dominic Parker, Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics, will discuss both the opportunities and obstacles for renewable energy development on tribal reservation land in the U.S.

Abstract: Can renewable energy development reduce poverty on American Indian reservations? What are the opportunities and obstacles for tribes wanting to develop wind and solar? We study these questions empirically and offer four findings. First, the colonial process of reservation creation – which often cut tribes off from natural resources valued by European settlers –left reservation lands disproportionately endowed with wind and solar that is technologically suitable for utility-scale development. Moreover, these endowments tend to be largest on the poorest set of reservations. Second, despite favorable endowments, renewable projects on reservations are rare, implying tribal members have yet to benefit from federal and state subsidies. After controlling for energy potential and other factors, reservation land areas are 65% less likely to host wind farms and 153% less likely to host solar farms when compared to adjacent lands. Third, if the present disparity in renewable uptake persists through 2050, tribes may forego over $23 billion (in present value terms) of landowner lease payments and tax earnings that could be accrued under aggressive net-zero forecasts of energy transitions. Fourth, within reservation areas, wind farming has thus far occurred primarily on private fee-simple lands rather than federal trust lands, suggesting trusteeship is an impediment to renewable energy expansion.


This event is offered both in-person at the Wisconsin Energy Institute and online through Zoom Webinar. If attending online, registration is required. Click here to register for this and all other webinars as part of the Sustainable Energy Seminar series in Fall 2022.

1115 Wisconsin Energy Institute (and Online)
1552 University Ave
Madison, WI 53726