The Four Corners region is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, and the new $94 million loan from USDA should support the transition. The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station is expected to close in December 2019 after the Navajo Nation Council voted against purchasing it. Kayenta II, a new solar farm, is expected to open this month.
“With the number of cloudless days that they have, doing this solar project is just exactly what needs to be put into play,” said Randy Parker, the Utah director of USDA Rural Development. “They have Kayenta I and Kayenta II. Kayenta II should be coming online in the very near future. I mean, we’re literally weeks away from that. The expectation is that they will be generating revenue literally in weeks.”
Parker said that the loan to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority should support expansion of electricity in the Navajo Nation, where 15,000 people live without power. Additional electricity will be sold to repay the loan.
“Harvesting the renewable energy will help meet tribal needs. In addition, they will be able to sell some of that power into the Phoenix area and generate income to expand the current grid and meet the needs of more of the isolated tribal members,” Parker said.
One of the major difficulties in connecting homes on the Navajo Nation to the grid is the distance between homes and power plants. The loan is anticipated to address this because it includes funds for building and improving power lines.