The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is preparing to break ground on its first utility-scale solar plant, a roughly 27-MW project on 300 acres in a Navajo community south of Monument Valley, Ariz.
On Dec. 16, 2015, NTUA announced an agreement to develop the utility-scale project with the Salt River Project (SRP), a community-based nonprofit utility serving the Phoenix area. The $64m Kayenta Solar Facility is funded, in part, by tax credits and federal loans, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said in a Jan. 14 news release.
Expected to be completed in 2016, the plant will provide electricity to an estimated 7,700 households. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the tribe’s first-ever large-scale renewable energy project will benefit the Navajo Nation and its people.
The tribe views the project as an opportunity for economic development and job creation, including an estimated 100 local construction jobs and subcontracting opportunities.
“As the primary utility on Navajo, it was important NTUA take the lead on establishing a large-scale renewable project on the Navajo Nation,” said NTUA General Manager Walter Hasse. “It is an important next step in the development of a green economy for the Navajo Nation.”
NTUA has provided solar systems to Navajo families with no access to electricity since 1998, and bringing a large-scale renewable energy project to the Navajo Nation has been a long-time goal of the tribal utility. NTUA received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for a feasibility study on wind energy in 2005, as well as $9m in DOE funding for energy efficiency and conservation under the Recovery Act in 2009.
DOE also awarded $340,000 to the Navajo Hopi Land Commission to study the feasibility of a 4,000-MW solar project at Paragon-Bisti Ranch in New Mexico in 2012. The study, which confirmed that approximately 10,000 acres on five major sites are suitable for hosting 2,100 MW of solar photovoltaic power, was completed in June 2015.
The Paragon-Bisti solar ranch project is moving to the pre-construction phase, which includes meeting and recruiting solar developers, surveying, and performing an environmental assessment.
Since 1959, NTUA has supplied electricity, water, natural gas, wastewater treatment, and photovoltaic (solar power) services to residents throughout the 27,000 square-mile Navajo Nation, according to the NTUA website.