As coal dwindles, Southwest tribal solar farms pump out power
- Nov 22, 2019 4:29 pm GMT
DENVER, Nov. 22 (UPI) New, large-scale solar farms are bringing jobs to reservations and electricity for the first time to families living on tribal lands in remote areas of the Southwest.
Along with selling renewable energy on a large scale to cities like Albuquerque and Los Angeles, solar power generated by tribes pays for infrastructure to power up homes that have been waiting decades for electricity.
The Navajo Tribal Utilities Authority successfully brought online two large solar projects that generate 55 megawatts in Kayenta, Ariz., over the past year. The two sites now provide enough electricity to power the entire 17-million-acre reservation.
Building the two solar farms employed more than 400 people, most of them tribal members, said Deenise Becenti, the utility's spokeswoman.
The power authority raised seed money to bring electricity to remote families by selling renewable energy credits to Phoenix's Salt River Project.
This fall, as part of the Light Up Navajo program, utility line workers from 12 states traveled to the reservation to install poles and power lines for 225 families. These workers typically deploy to restore power after natural disasters.
"The gratitude was tremendous for these families," Becenti said. "Now they can keep groceries cool in their own refrigerator instead of using a neighbor's. One grandmother was so glad she could make her own toast in a toaster. Children were excited to eat Popsicles in their homes."
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