Category: Cronkite News

Tribally owned solar power plant beats skeptics, odds on Navajo Nation

Sarabeth Henne Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 Tribally owned solar power plant beats skeptics, odds on Navajo Nation WASHINGTON – Deenise Becenti remembers watching this summer as a woman in the Navajo Nation who had been waiting more than 20 years to get electricity in her home flipped the switch to turn on the lights for the first time. “She had a whole lot of happy tears,” said Becenti, the spokeswoman for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. “It was a very humble day because you knew that she had been waiting for ‘the day’ for a very long time.” “The day” was made possible by the Kayenta Solar Project, the first large-scale solar farm on the Navajo Nation and the largest tribally owned renewable power plant in the country. The 27.3-megawatt plant, which went on line last summer, now generates enough power for 18,000 homes on Navajo lands. But many thought the day might never come. For years, there had been talk about supplying renewable energy to homes on the Navajo Nation, but that’s all it had been – talk. When NTUA General Manager Walter Haase first proposed that the tribe build its own solar-generating plant, there were skeptics. When Haase began his job at NTUA in 2008, there were about 18,000 homes without electricity. The utility was in the red. It had never owned its own generating facility. And...

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Tribal energy loan program starts, more than a decade after its OK

Sarabeth Henne Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 Tribal energy loan program starts, more than a decade after its OK WASHINGTON – More than 10 years after it was first approved, a federal loan program for tribal energy development projects will accept its first applications next month. The Department of Energy in July said it was accepting applications for projects under the $2 billion Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, which will provide “partial loan guarantees to leverage private sector lending” for a range of energy projects by tribes. “It’s a good start,” said Pilar Thomas, a professor specializing in Indian energy and policy at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. “There’s a real opportunity for them (tribes) to do something around energy.” It’s an opportunity that’s been a long time coming: The tribal loan program was first approved in 2005 but not fully funded until Congress passed the omnibus budget bill in May 2017. The program aims to stimulate economic growth in Indian Country by allowing the Energy Department to guarantee up to 90 percent of the unpaid interest on these loans. The first applications are due Sept. 19, with deadlines every other month thereafter. The program will let the government “work in partnership with private-sector lenders to help them better understand the unique characteristics of tribal energy opportunities and catalyze future private-sector investment,” said Energy Secretary Rick...

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Environmentalists want Glen Canyon Dam removed, but is that possible?

Courtney Mally Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 Environmentalists want Glen Canyon Dam removed, but is that possible? PAGE – The Bureau of Reclamation finished Glen Canyon Dam in 1963, obliterating one of the most spectacular red-rock canyons in the Southwest and altering the flow of the mighty Colorado River. The concrete-arch dam, just south of the Arizona-Utah line, was first proposed in the 1940s to store water and produce electricity for Western states. Initial plans were to dam the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado, but that would have flooded Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, so planners turned to little-known Glen Canyon. But the formation of Lake Powell behind the dam cooled the Colorado and reduced sediment flows downstream, making the water clearer and preventing the replenishment of fragile shoreline habitat. The sediment buildup eventually could interfere with the dam’s operations. Environmentalists opposed Glen Canyon Dam even before it was built, and some now argue it should be dismantled regardless of the environmental and economic costs that could have. But others disagree, contending removal would be too costly and arguing that the dam has forever transformed the river from Page to the Grand Canyon, which lies to the southwest. Economically, Page and nearby communities rely heavily on the dam’s operation and the tourist attractions and activities created by Lake Powell. This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability...

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