PHOENIX — An agreement was signed between the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and Salt River Project (SRP) Jan. 26 to extend the capacity of the Kayenta Solar Farm to double the amount of energy it will produce and the number of homes it will power.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the agreement is a step toward becoming energy self-sufficient and establishing the Nation as an energy producing tribe.
“This partnership is very important in providing energy to our elders and rural residents,” Begaye said. “The agreement builds the capacity of the Kayenta Solar Farm in producing an additional 27.3 megawatts of energy that can power an estimated 18,000 homes. This is greatly significant for the Nation.”
In August 2017, the Navajo Nation opened the Kayenta Solar Facility, which currently affords 27.3 megawatts of electricity to Navajo communities. The agreement to expand the facility doubles the amount of electricity the farm will produce as well as the number of homes it can power.
According to a press release at the height of construction, close to 278 people of whom 236 (85 percent) were of Navajo descent, worked on the project. In addition, the Navajo workforce was paid $5.2 million and received over 4,700 hours of specialized training in solar utility construction for the Kayenta Solar Project. The construction also generated $3,017,055 in taxes paid to the Navajo Nation. Overall, it is estimated that $15.6 million in economic activity occurred within the surrounding communities during the construction period.
NTUA General Manager Walter W. Haase, P.E., said the Kayenta II project, as it’s known, will bring $15.6 million dollars of economic activity to the region during the construction phase and generate over $3 million dollars in Navajo Nation taxes throughout 30-year term of the agreement.
“The expansion of the Kayenta II project will require over 4,700 hours of specialized training for Navajo employees and effectively generate $5.2 million dollars directly into their pockets. The project will benefit the Nation in raising the skill level of our Navajo workforce,” Haase said.
According to Haase, the Kayenta II project will be fully operational by May 2019.
General Manager and CEO of SRP Mark Bonsall said he was honored to work alongside the Nation in expanding the Kayenta Solar Facility to create a better energy future for everyone involved.
“We’re grateful for the leadership of President Begaye and NTUA because, without their vision, this significant achievement would not be possible,” Bonsall said. “SRP and the Navajo Nation have been on a journey together, which hasn’t been an easy one. Yet, we are emerging with the capability to secure a great future.”
The signing of the agreement coincides with a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties wherein they will commit to working together to pursue the development of additional renewable energy projects on the Nation. The MOU identifies that SRP will provide technical support in developing interconnection facilities for large-scale renewable development.
“In the past, energy developed on the Navajo Nation was sent away for the benefit of others,” Begaye said. “Now under this administration, Navajo has taken steps to produce energy for ourselves. The partnership between NTUA and SRP to build Kayenta Solar Facility laid the groundwork to expand toward Kayenta II. This is a healthy step for the Navajo Nation as it’s become an energy producing tribe.”
The agreement targets the development of at least 500 megawatts of renewable energy projects over the next five to ten years.
“We are excited about this partnership beyond the immediate energy benefits it has to the Nation. Looking forward, the Nation will work to produce 500 megawatts of electricity that will strengthen our ability to bring power to Navajo communities,” Begaye said. “This partnership with SRP is hugely significant.”