If one is to observe a map of the southwestern portion of the United States, there is a pattern emerging when it comes to power usage and utility. States like Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, that are home to many Navajo Nation regions, are noticeably falling behind compared to the rest of the United States in implementation of solar power. A new report from the Institute for  Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has outlined a movement to change this trend and incorporate solar power utility and renewable energy resources in those regions. The solar energy goals of the report from the IEEFA outline three primary focuses, along with an emphasis on working with Navajo Nation central government, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), and other officials in various chapters of the Navajo Nation across the southwestern region of the United States. In order to implement solar utility in a way that is congruent with the goals of all parties involved, it is stressed throughout the report that the support of the central tribal government is present on everything from infrastructure to revenue streams. 

Addressing Primary Concerns 

Research editor and author of the report released by the IEEFA, Karl Cates, addressed one of the primary concerns and reasons why they are moving forward with solar projects that will impact the Navajo regions. It is likely that the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a coal-fired utility generator, will close down soon. This will have a great impact on employment in the region, among other consequences. It is the intent of the IEEFA to replace the generator with solar energy utility and increase solar energy usage for this reason. Cates envisions rebuilding a, “new tribal energy economy,” that will not only increase economic benefit for the region, but also allow such regions to maintain independence. They can only do so by communicating effectively with Navajo leaders and officials. The report effectively lays out some positive pathways to be taken in order to do just that. 

Integration Done the Right Way 

Solar power is currently minimal in tribal lands in the United States and tribes are often propositioned by solar power leaders to move forward on solar energy projects. With solar and renewable utility developments appearing across the country at a rapid rate, it is becoming more apparent that Navajo and other tribal regions are falling behind. However, it takes delicacy, respect and a willingness to communicate with various Navajo organizations to ensure the longevity of solar energy projects in the region and maintaining positive relationships among tribal and state officials. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has appeared to have taken great care in their endeavor to bring solar energy to these regions. 

Three Primary Goals 

The first component of the solar utility plan proposed by the IEEFA to bring more solar-powered resources to Navajo tribe regions in the United States is to help evolve tribal solar utility policy. They have already seen success on this front with the Kayenta Solar Facility, which was built back in 2017. The facility also serves to help train those in solar power construction and installation, so the resources necessary to educate tribal regions would be made available as solar power continues to develop as part of the IEEFA’s plan.  

The second goal includes ensuring the support of the central tribal government and making sure that solar power revenue streams are shared with local land owners and tribes. A brand-new department, the Office of Energy Resources and Development, has been created to help navigate solar power revenue. 

Lastly, the IEEFA hopes that this campaign to bring solar power to their regions will enhance the Navajo Nation and local chapters in positive ways. They hope to continue to increase opportunity and benefit for the Navajo nations involved and are determined to maintain open and flexible communication with Navajo leaders as the solar energy projects are continually planned, evolved, and constructed. 

Optimizing Potential 

The rich potential of the southwestern portions of the United States to harness the power of solar energy must first be expressed and approved by current leaders and land owners. The report continually brings the focus back to using solar power to benefit the Navajo nation and local chapters, providing an optimistic and encouraging glimpse into the future of solar power and its integration into tribal life. 

Read the full report here: http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Growing-Interest-in-Potential-for-Navajo-Utility-Scale-Solar-Industry.pdf 

Resource 

https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/11/report-growing-interest-navajo-utility-scale-solar-industry/ 

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