Environment

Navajo solar energy project now in full force

Navajo Solar Energy

A Navajo solar energy project is set to provide enough electricity to power about 13,000 homes.

Monument Valley is a is a red-sand desert region on the Arizona-Utah border and one of the homes of the Navajo, one of the First Nations Tribes of the Unites States. The project has been implemented there to ensure a cleaner, less hazardous form of energy be utilised for the residents of the area.

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According to Arizona Central;

“The plant comes at a time when the area’s energy landscape is shifting. The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page is set to close in December 2019, leaving a site that both tribal and private entities say has the potential for renewable energy development. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which owns the solar plant, said the project advances clean energy on the reservation long known for fossil fuel development, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

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.”

Despite the remote location of the project site, the entire Dangling Rope Marina PV/hybrid power system was installed, tested and commissioned by Applied Power on schedule and within budget. System operation and maintenance training, crucial to the overall success of the project, was provide for NPS personnel by Applied Power.

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.”

The project has been in the works for some time now, as this 2014 article highlights. The piece by Goal Zero highlighted the historical importance of the region;

Monument Valley was once a great sandstone plain. Millions of years of wind and water carved away the different layers of sandstone and has now left behind these great monolithic monuments.

The Anasazi lived in the area before their disappearance. The Navajo people and culture emerged somewhere between 1100-1500 A.D. and eventually, as did most native tribes, had their encounter with conquistadors and the American Government. In 1864, many Navajo were taken captive and forced to walk over 300 miles east to Fort Sumner. Many died along the way. This traumatic history has now become a part of the Navajo identity.”

Clearly this is one part of the United States which needs all the protection it can get. But it’s not just the large scale operations which are reaching such heights. High school senior Kelly Charley has been working on a solar heater ‘for the thousands of homes in the Navajo Nation that don’t have access to electricity‘. Like the Navajo Solar Project, Charley wants to see the number of coal-associated respiratory illnesses fall.

Why am I letting my grandparents go through this, when I could do something about it?” she says. Watch her inspiring story below:

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