Project estimated to cost $50 million, generate 27.3 megawatts

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FARMINGTON — Officials from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the Salt River Project are working together to build a solar farm near Kayenta, Arizona, and to develop future renewable energy projects on the reservation.

The site will be known as Kayenta II, and it will be constructed on land adjacent to an existing solar facility about 5 miles north of the community.

NTUA spokeswoman Deenise Becenti said today Kayenta II is estimated to cost approximately $50 million, which the tribal enterprise will finance with loans from the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation.

Construction is scheduled to start this year with an anticipated completion date of spring 2019, and it would generate an additional 27.3 megawatts for tribal communities and Salt River Project customers, Becenti said.

In addition to the expansion, officials from the NTUA and the Salt River Project, a public power utility headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, signed a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 26. That document commits the two parties to work together to develop at least 500 megawatts of renewable energy projects over the next five to 10 years on the reservation.

NTUA general manager Walter Haase said in the release since the Kayenta Solar Project started producing 27.3 megawatts last year, it has become the tribe's "showcase" for renewable energy.

"Kayenta II will further prove that such development is viable within the Navajo Nation and further move economic development related to renewable energy forward for the Navajo Nation," Haase said.

Mark Bonsall, general manager and CEO for the Salt River Project, said in the release the renewable energy credits from Kayenta II will help the utility provider increase its renewable portfolio to further reduce carbon emissions.

Construction of the Kayenta Solar Project resulted in approximately $3 million in tax revenue to the tribe and employed 278 workers, including 326 tribal members, at the height of construction, the release states.

Becenti said Kayenta II is projected to produce similar tax revenue and employment opportunities.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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