December 30, 2015

Navajo nation ‘goes green’ with new solar plant

A solar array at Nellis Air Force Base. Wikicommons

SANTA FE, N.M. – The Navajo Nation is going green by building its first utility-scale solar farm on tribal property.

A solar array at Nellis Air Force Base. Photo Credit: Wikicommons

A solar array at Nellis Air Force Base. Photo Credit: Wikicommons

The facility, to be located on 300 acres near Monument Valley, is expected to generate enough power for 7,700 homes in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah after it is completed in late 2016. Deenise Biscenti, public affairs director for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, said building the solar plant is part of a long-term strategy to change the way the tribes deliver power.

“For the past several years, NTUA has explored renewable-energy resource possibilities,” she said. “This solar farm is our move into that field, to establish a green economy for the Navajo Nation.”

According to Navajo officials, the $64 million plant, to be built with a combination of federal loans and tax credits, will create about 100 jobs during construction and a handful of permanent positions after completion.

Biscenti said the Navajo Nation decided to build the solar farm itself rather than hire an outside company.

“Because we are the primary utility provider here on the Nation,” she said, “we felt it should be NTUA to take the major step into building a facility of this size.”

She said the Navajo Nation has not previously generated its own power but purchased it elsewhere. Biscenti added that the utility’s 40,000 electric customers will not see a rate increase when the solar farm becomes operational.