The Navajo Nation’s first utility-scale solar energy project is now generating enough electricity to provide for the needs of around 13,000 area homes, according to recent reports.
The solar photovoltaic energy installation — located in proximity to the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley, and dubbed “The Kayenta Solar Facility” — is owned by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and is intended to show that renewable energy projects are viable on the reservation.
Considering that the nearby coal-fired Navajo Generating Station is slated to close down in December 2019, this is important according to those involved in the project. There’s the potential for the coal-fired power plant’s site to be used for renewable energy development after the plant closes, according to various tribal and private entities.
Here’s more on the matter from Arizona Central: “Walter Haase, general manager of the tribal utility, said the plant proves to investors, developers and tribal communities that renewable energy projects are possible on the reservation. Economic development often is hampered by the lack of infrastructure, required environmental clearances and consent from anyone holding a permit or lease for use of the land.
“Before the solar facility, ‘we had a reputation in the industry of not being able to get something built or brought online,’ Haase said. The town of Kayenta benefited, too. The contractor hired and trained about 200 Navajos to build the plant, said Deenise Becenti, a spokeswoman for the tribal utility, leaving a qualified workforce for other projects.
“The tribal utility avoided passing on the $60 million cost of the solar plant to its customers through federal solar investor tax credits, said Glenn Steiger, project manager for the solar farm. A two-year power purchase and renewable energy credit agreement with the Salt River Project will cover loan repayments for the plant’s construction, Steiger said. The tribal utility is working on extending the agreement.”
While solar energy is now cost competitive in many regions, speaking in a generalized way, projects such as the one discussed above are where the potential for solar energy seems to be greatest, in my opinion. The ability to implement projects on exactly the scale needed, and in relatively “remote” regions, without a need for vast amounts of outside development help — those are certainly strong advantages.