FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation will receive $4.9 million in stimulus funding to develop a smart electrical grid.

The money would fund a smart grid for the Nation that quickly would identify electrical system outages, monitor people's appliances for efficiency and better facilitate the use of alternative energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday announced $3.4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for smart grid projects throughout the nation.

"This is an important investment in the Navajo Nation, one that will result in better service to the (Navajo Tribal Utility Authority's) nearly 40,000 customers," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a prepared statement announcing the funding. "At the same time, this grant will help create good jobs in the area."

Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, helped create the smart grid stimulus grant funding, according to the statement.

The funding will advance the use of renewable energy sources in the region, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in the statement.

"Implementation of smart grid technology can help transform our energy infrastructure in the places we need it the most, like the Navajo Nation," Udall said in the statement.

No funds for Farmington

The city of Farmington, which applied for the same federal grant money as the Nation, did not receive any funding.

"I regret to inform you that your application was not selected for award," an Energy Department letter to the city stated. "This result represents the level of competition rather than a reflection on your application."

Another letter will provide details on the Energy Department's review of the Electric Utility, The letter stated.

The Energy Department received almost 400 applications for $9.3 billion in requests for smart grid projects.

The city's Farmington Electric Utility System budgeted almost $17 million for a smart grid, Electric Utility director Maude Grantham-Richards said.

Grantham-Richards was disappointed and said the lack of federal funding would delay the smart grid project.

Almost $2 million is budgeted for smart grid meters through the next two years, and another $15 million for other smart grid equipment over the next six years, Grantham-Richards said.

But there are unresolved issues with smart grids, such as whether they can be protected against security cyber attacks, she said. The utility wants to research those issues further before the project goes forward.

"We're going to take our time moving into this," she said.

Jen Stutsman, an Energy Department spokeswoman, said she could not comment on specifics of individual applications.

Energy Department experts considered several factors in deciding where funding would go, including job creation and the ability to provide at least an equal amount of funding for the smart grid, Stutsman said.

That means the Nation would have to contribute at least an additional $4.9 million toward its smart grid, Stutsman said.

"The department chose the highest ranking proposals that we felt could best put us on a path to transition towards a cleaner, smarter, more efficient electrical grid in the country," she said.

Smart grids include devices that monitor people's electrical use and the ability for heating and air-conditioning systems and appliances to be turned off at times when electricity is used most. People also could better monitor their own electricity use and its cost.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority officials did not respond to telephone calls and an e-mail requesting comment Tuesday.

Steve Lynn:

slynn@daily-times.com