Black Mesa Trust: Solar power is the future for Hopi

KYKOTSMOVI -- (Aug. 12) -- Black Mesa Trust is certain that the Aug. 9 deal between a subsidiary of Southern California Electric (SCE) and Stirling Energy Systems (SES) to build up to 850 megawatts of solar generation in California will give the proposed Hopi-SES solar project a big boost.

During the California Public Utility Commission's proceeding to determine the fate of Mohave Generating Station, Black Mesa Trust, through Water & Energy Consulting (which represented Hopi and Navajo grassroots organizations), proposed that the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation each put a 500 MW solar power plant on Black Mesa using Stirling Energy's innovative dish technology.

Some objected to that plan because the Stirling technology was commercially unproven. But the 20-year power purchase agreement between SCE and Stirling Energy to build a 500 to 850 MW solar project 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles changes all that.

"Up until now, our tribal leaders have refused to look seriously at a commercial solar plant to replace the electricity and tribal revenues that will be lost when Mohave closes at the end of this year," said Black Mesa Trust Executive Director Vernon Masayesva.

"But contrary to what the Hopi Tribe's leaders and attorneys are saying about the relative costs of solar, this project shows that SCE thinks solar generation is cost-effective," he said.

A Stirling Energy press release quoted SCE CEO Alan Fohrer: "The [SCE-SES] contract requires no state subsidy and provides a favorable pricing for ratepayers because tests have shown the Stirling dish technology can produce electricity at significantly lower costs than other solar technologies."

Clean power production is becoming critical as states take into account the real costs of producing energy using fossil fuels and set standards for their renewable energy portfolios. Just last week, the Arizona Corporation Commission set a standard of producing 15 percent of Arizona's energy with renewables by the year 2025.

The Arizona Republic quoted Governor Janet Napolitano on the value of renewable energy generation: "One hour's worth of sunshine falling in just six square miles on a sunny day can power the entire state for a full dayÉ.Currently, our energy situation is crutched upon non-renewable fuels like oil, gas and coal. Fortunately a different source of energy is making a comeback. With the help of modern technology, solar power holds the potential to bring Arizona electricity that is clean, renewable, abundant and reliable."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on June 1 ordered that California cut carbon dioxide emissions to 2000 levels by 2010 and to 1990 levels by 2020. And the CPUC has ruled that proposals to sell fossil-fuel generated electricity in California must now financially account for the cost of carbon dioxide emissions by adding to the price of the power $8 to $25 per ton of carbon dioxide.

"We have heard over and over again that coal is a cheap way to produce electricity. But until now the true costs of burning fossil fuels has been willfully ignored. Burning fossil fuels produces mercury, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, and particulates that cause asthma and other lung diseases," said Masayesva.

"When these costs are taken into account, coal is actually the least cost-effective energy generation technology."

He pointed out that coal powered plants "use excessive amounts of water," and that on Hopi this has resulted in the depletion of the N-aquifer "another nonrenewable resource."

"Building solar power plants may be a little more expensive in the short term, but once all the costs of fossil fuel generation are taken into account, solar generation is among the least expensive options," Masayesva said.

"The Hopi people are saying, 'Enough is enough.' We are no longer willing to squander our coal, our water, our health, and our culture to produce electricity for urban centers when other ways of producing that electricity are available and commercially viable and would provide significant revenues to the tribe.

"Our elected representatives in tribal government and our attorneys need to stop acting as if they work for Peabody and begin to put our peoples' interests first," concluded Masayesva.

Organizations supporting Black Mesa Trust are the Arizona Ethnobotanical Research Association, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Environment Now, Grand Canyon Trust, Honor the Earth, Indigenous Water Institute, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sacred Land Film Project, Sierra Club, Shanker Law Firm, Shearman & Sterling, Toh Nizhoni Ahni, and WaterKeeper Alliance.

Supporting Foundations include Acorn Foundation. The Christensen Fund, Oxfam America, Patagonia, Quinney Foundation, SB Foundation, Seventh Generation Fund, and Walton Family Foundation.

For more information about Black Mesa Trust, visit www.blackmesatrust.org or call 928-213-9009 or 928-734-9255. For more information about the Hopi to Mexico City Run in 2006, visit www.h2opirun.org or call Ruben Saufkie, run coordinator, at 928-734-5438.

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