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Kayenta solar project begins April 23

Tribal utility and government officials will break ground on a large-scale solar project in Kayenta Chapter on April 23, according to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority spokeswoman Deenise Becenti.

 

"We are ready to break ground," Becenti said in a phone interview earlier this month. "The work on the project has continued to progress toward this day. The contractor is in place and we are ready to begin on this first-ever large-scale solar project on the Navajo Nation."

Becenti said the residents of Kayenta and the surrounding community as well as utility officials and tribal leadership are invited to the Saturday ground-breaking ceremony.

In December, the NTUA struck a two-year agreement with Tempe-based utility Salt River Project to build the large-scale utility solar farm on the Navajo Nation.

When completed, the solar farm, located in Kayenta, Ariz., would deliver 27.5 megawatts of photo-voltaic solar energy, which represents progress on the Navajo Nation's renewable energy efforts, according to a NTUA press release.

The project will also offer "some of the lowest" consumer electric rates in the region, the release states.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said tribal officials are excited about increased power supply with a renewable energy component.

"The Navajo Nation is excited about the impressive future and arrangement that SRP and NTUA have forged and the opportunity that the Navajo people will be given to receive a significant portion of their energy with solar resources,” Begaye said in the release. “I'd like to thank both entities for developing and supporting projects that will certainly benefit the Navajo Nation and more importantly, the Navajo people. This is indeed a new horizon for an awakening of a new dawn."

The solar project is expected to be constructed this year over 300 acres and provide energy to Navajo communities served by NTUA substations in Kayenta and Longhouse Valley, according to the release.

Construction of the project will supply about 100 jobs, Becenti said.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates said in the release that the project will inspire further development of renewable energy and generate jobs on the Navajo Nation.

"This project will create much needed jobs and employment opportunities within the Navajo Nation," Bates said. 

NTUA General Manager Walter Haase said the temporary jobs might offer some relief to laid off miners.

"As the primary utility on Navajo, it was important NTUA take the lead on establishing a large-scale renewable project on the Navajo Nation.” Hasse said. "Although (jobs created by the project) will not completely supplement job losses from coal mine layoffs or reduction in operations at the local coal power plants, it is an important next step in the development of a green economy for the Navajo Nation."

NTUA has four large-scale solar panels at locations in New Mexico and Arizona, according to the release.

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