Solar power is sometimes criticized as being idealistic and impractical, being too unreliable, too inefficient, too expensive, not to mention taking a toll on the global petroleum-addicted economy.
The Navajo Nation is debunking many of these criticisms with the creation of a huge array of solar panels, with the creation of a 200-acre solar farm five miles north of Kayenta, AZ. The Kayenta Solar Facility – the first large-scale solar project from the Navajo Nation – is predicted to create enough energy for up to 13,000 Navajo homes. The elaborate solar project will also create hundreds of jobs for local tribe members, many of whom were bracing for unemployment with the imminent closure of a nearby coal-powered power plant.
Not only will the Kayenta Solar Facility create energy for the Navajo Nation, it will also produce excess energy, with its 27.3-megawatt capacity, that will be re-distributed via the Salt River Project.
The Kayenta Solar Facility makes it clear that renewable energy developments are not only possible, but profitable, on Native American reservations, as reported by The Arizona Daily Sun, “Walter Haase, general manager of the tribal utility, said the plant proves to investors, developers and tribal communities that renewable energy projects are possible on the reservation. Economic development often is hampered by the lack of infrastructure, required environmental clearances and consent from anyone holding a permit or lease for use of the land.”
The town of Kayenta will benefit, as well, with hundreds of local contractors being brought into and trained to construct the ambitious solar array. The tribal utility council was able to avoid increasing costs for consumers, as well, offsetting the costs with solar investment tax credits.
The Kayenta Solar Facility is a good sign for those of us who’ve longed for sustainable, progressive developments in society, too often slowed by capitalist cynicism. The Navajo Solar Center proves that clean, renewable, sustainable energy can be practical, profitable, and good for the community.