About this Dashboard

This dashboard features current renewable energy production (wind, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric) on US Native Lands. It combines data from two sources: (1) the NREL Biofuel Atlas 2019, which shows operable electric generating plants for wind, solar, and geothermal sources sourced from the Energy Information Administration (2017), and (2) Tracking the Sun,” a 2020 dataset from Berkeley Lab which contains the record of 1.6 million residential solar installations in the US (or 81% of the total number of installations), which we geolocated and selected for all reservations.

Sources of Renewable Energy
Native Land Areas
Datasets utilized
Possible Visualizations

About the Data

This dashboard features renewable electric plant production from multiple energy sources and residential electric solar production. The output is in kW (kilowatts), which represents what the total installations can produce in one hour for each reservation. For planning purposes, it can especially be useful to compare with average household electric consumption. For reference, the average US customer consumes about 10,632 kWh/Year. Due to living conditions on some reservations, with more residents per household on average, smaller houses and less appliances, average energy consumption on reservations is likely less than the US average.

Data for this dashboard comes from two combined sources: 

1) The NREL Biofuel Atlas 2019, which shows operable electric generating plants for wind, solar, and geothermal, sourced from the Energy Information Administration (2017)It includes all plants that are operating, on standby, or short- or long-term out of service with a combined nameplate capacity of 1 MW or more.

2) Tracking the Sun,a 2020 dataset from Berkeley Lab which contains the record of 1.6 million residential solar installations in the US, or 81% of the total number of installations, which we geolocated and selected for all reservations. Since solar energy production is widely influenced by private household level production we deemed necessary to add this dataset to the existing solar production data.

Why is this Data (and this Dashboard) Important?

Shifting to renewable forms of energy is a key component of thriving futures for tribal communities, as it is for the rest of world. Our economic reliance on polluting fossil fuels is largely responsible for climate change and brings with it irreversible damage to world and tribal ecosystems. Exiting fossil fuels is not easy, yet it is an essential step towards a livable planet for our children and the next seven generations.

Tribes stand at the forefront of renewable energy innovation with a variety of grassroots projects building efficient off-grid systems for their communities. One example of many can be found in the success story of the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, a Pine Ridge based initiative that refined 1970s solar furnace technology to provide heat to tribal homes across many reservations. Yet, despite many similar initiatives in Indian Country, tribes still lack the fundamental capital investment to invest in their own renewable energy grid. 

Along with providing solutions that fight climate change, renewable energy development promises a vibrant self-reliant future for tribes, provided that they can (1) access the resources necessary to develop the types of energy that make sense to them and (2) retain full sovereignty and control over these projects.

This data is meant to provide an overview of where tribes stand in terms of their current renewable energy production, including individual solar installations. It is intended to provide tribal leaders and tribal members with a baseline to inform decision-making. This dashboard can be paired with our upcoming dashboard about renewable energy potential to deduce where there is room for improvement.

Limitations and Considerations of the Dataset:

These indicators merely point to the resources that can be used to grow sovereign and sustainable economies. This dashboard is not meant to be an exhaustive summary of tribal renewable energy production capacity, as it comes from non-exhaustive public datasets. Besides the Tracking the Sun data that adds individual solar installations to the total capacity, the other datasets only consider installations with more than 1 Mega Watt capacity. This dataset also lacks data for grassroots off-grid renewable energy projects such as homemade turbines, small dams, and biomass projects that are promising due to their anchorage in communities and minimal impact on the environment.

Another study, “Developing clean energy projects for tribes” by the Office of Indian Energy of the US Department of Energy, provides additional guidelines for specific project types and tribal rankings. We provide this resource for additional research along the topic of tribal renewable energy production. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has also recently enriched their data outputs and created an interactive mapping tool for tribal renewable energy planning.

Download the Source Data

We have updated our terminology from “raw data” to “source data” to better reflect the contextual nature and origins of the information we provide. This change acknowledges that all data is influenced by the context in which it is collected, and aims to promote a more inclusive and accurate understanding of the information presented.