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As coal dwindles, Southwest tribal solar farms pump out power

image credit: A solar farm on Navajo tribal land generates all the electricity used on the 17-million acre reservation. Photo courtesy of Navajo Tribal Utility Authority
Jean Lotus's picture
Field Editor,

Award-winning journalist and Colorado native with an interest in tech, innovation, natural resources, oil and gas and renewables.

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  • Nov 22, 2019

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."


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 22, 2019

Do you know if the jobs that were made were able to bring about people who had been working at coal plants? Were those transferrable skills?

Jean Lotus's picture
Jean Lotus on Nov 22, 2019

The jobs were temporary-- to build the solar farm. Very few peole actually run it. The Navajo Nation sells electricity and uses money for infrastructure projects.


Israel Perez's picture
Israel Perez on Nov 22, 2019

I have a question i am starting a solar farm in the RGV in South Texas i have everthing lined up but did not know it was so hard to get a PPA can anyone give me any ideas on how to get one.

Jean Lotus's picture
Thank Jean for the Post!
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