April 23, 2020 Read More →

Navajo Power CEO sees potential for 10GW renewable buildout on tribal lands as coal plants close

PV Magazine:

“We believe you can go to 10 gigawatts of renewable resources” across the Navajo Nation, as coal plant retirements in the area open up transmission capacity, said Navajo Power CEO Brett Isaac, in a pv magazine interview. The Navajo Nation extends across parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Navajo Power is preparing a bid to build 200 MW of solar power, after the Arizona utility Salt River Project issued a bid request specifying solar on Navajo Nation lands. The solar project selected by the utility will help make up for generation capacity lost last November when the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station closed; the utility will pay the Navajo Nation for the use of its transmission lines.

The 10 GW renewables potential, Isaac said, will emerge as three other coal plants in the area retire, largely due to the “price competitiveness” of solar, wind and storage projects. The three plants are the San Juan Generating Station, which is scheduled to close in 2022, the Cholla Power Plant, “just off the Navajo Nation along I-40,” where one of the three units will retire this year, and the Four Corners power plant on Navajo Nation lands. The Four Corners plant is scheduled to close in 2031, but Isaac said “the economics will probably force” an earlier closure.

Navajo Power’s proposed 200 MW project would be sited on lands currently used for grazing in the Coalmine Canyon Chapter—chapters are the community level of government within the Navajo Nation—and would need transmission access across the Cameron Chapter to interconnect to the grid, according to reporting by Rima Krisst for the Navajo Times. The company’s project has obtained “overwhelming” approval from both chapters to proceed to the next stage of development, Isaac said. The company is also pursuing the protocols to obtain Navajo Nation approval, he said.

Looking to the future, the Navajo Nation “can play a very strong part in the Southwest” if it becomes “a friendly environment for the development of these resources, because we have the land base and the transmission,” said Isaac, a member of the Navajo Nation. “But all those elements need to be carefully thought about and prioritized by the government’s own regulatory side, in order to see this through.” Projects must be efficient in order to sell power to markets such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, he said, as those markets are “heavily competitive.”

[William Driscoll]

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