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Fresh Off Granholm Meeting, ND Renewable-Energy Officials Talk Vision

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021   

BELCOURT, N.D. -- Renewable-energy advocates in North Dakota are hoping for more federal support to advance projects, after a key meeting with a Biden cabinet member this month.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm took part in a roundtable discussion last week, hosted by the governor, who along with fossil-fuel leaders promoted practices such as carbon storage in adapting fuel technology.

Other stakeholders pushed for more focus on helping North Dakota pursue avenues such as wind, solar and geothermal heating.

Wes Davis, director of facilities and sustainability at Turtle Mountain Community College, wants more federal resources to educate tribal communities about clean energy infrastructure.

"If we're able to develop curriculum to train these people at tribal colleges, then we can create trades," Davis explained.

He pointed out the approach could create more economic opportunities and sustainability in tribal communities. The meeting coincided with the Department of Energy announcing $20 million to help certain states advance carbon capture and storage.

The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center will share in the money, but clean-energy advocates argued the approach is too costly and won't be as effective in reducing harmful emissions.

Meanwhile, other groups attending Granholm's visit said regulators should set a tone to make it harder for larger wind and solar companies to swoop into North Dakota, set up shop and reap the benefits.

Jim Kambeitz, owner of Lightspring Solar, said local companies want to make a difference, but don't have an edge.

"I mean, who has $26 million in tax liability that they can just write off?" Kambeitz observed. "It's very hard to compete on that high corporate level. There should be something that levels the playing field."

When it comes to solar opportunities, Kambeitz feels there is a lot of room for growth in North Dakota.

"North Dakota is ranked 12th to 13th in the most amount of sunlight hours of all 50 states," Kambeitz noted.

According to industry rankings, North Dakota routinely falls near the bottom in solar output.


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