WINDOW ROCK – Though there are five transmission lines running right through the middle of Cameron Chapter, most of the homes are without electricity and residents have seen no benefits from the lines criss-crossing the barren landscape.
But Cameron Delegate Jack Colorado and Community Services Coordinator Rayola Werito say that is about to change.
Chapter residents approved a resolution Sunday supporting Independent Power Projects Inc.’s plan to conduct a feasibility study for a wind farm to be located atop Gray Mountain, and asking the Navajo Nation Council to support the chapter-based effort.
“We’re just giving them the OK to do the feasibility study. That’s it. If there’s going to be all those wind turbines that’s going to be put up, then we’re going to negotiate with that company just like we’re doing with IPP,” Colorado said.
“The Navajo Nation, they don’t include the chapters in the negotiations,” but the chapter realizes it needs to do that, he added, “because all these transmission lines running through Cameron Chapter, the rights of way, they’re just in the way and we’re not benefiting from them – no electricity, no nothing.”
Bruce McAlvain, president of IPP Inc., during Monday’s presentation to Council, said the company has been in the area more than a year and a half and has worked closely with the chapter.
“We have endeavored to do this as properly as possible and build a trust and support with the local community,” McAlvain said.
McAlvain believes there are four to eight sites that would be viable for development. “We are in a current position to put in additional monitoring equipment on top of Gray Mountain to give us a better, finite detail of what the resource is, but right now we believe that it will hold a 250 megawatt wind farm, possibly a 500 megawatt wind farm.”
He said IPP is in the “due diligence phase” with its industry partner, Sempra Energy of San Diego, on the potential project.
Werito said IPP first approached them in October 2006. “Before IPP came to the chapter, presentations were given to the chapter from Diné Power Authority with Citizens Energy. In October 2007 they gave a presentation to the community and questions were raised.
“Benefits was one of the No. 1 things they were asked. At that time, DPA and Citizens Energy did not have a response for the community. We passed a resolution yesterday to have IPP partner up with Sempra Energy … They’re well known. They’re probably one of the biggest developers of wind farms. They also do their own financing.”
She said the community is requesting the Nation and DPA work with IPP and Sempra in support of the project.
“I think this is a great initiative by a community, although I have some reservations,” Delegate Jonathan Nez said.
“This is a good initiative, a grassroots-level type thing. I think Council should support it – at least hear the ins and outs of it and be educated. It’s clean, renewable energy, and that’s what I support,” Delegate Leonard Chee said after the presentation.
Resources Committee Chairman George Arthur and Delegate Ervin Keeswood took issue with the presentation. Arthur said he did not recall IPP coming before his committee, which has oversight on such projects. “There is a protocol that is in place.
“I am somewhat puzzled about where we are with making these allowances for private industry to present to council at this stage. I do have a concern about that.”
Keeswood agreed, saying the item was out of order. “It should go back to the various committees and let them determine the process. After that’s done, if there’s legislation attached, then we have something to talk about.”
Chee said the chapter should be commended for its efforts, “rather than saying, ‘Oh, you’re here in Window Rock. You have to do everything on our terms,’ while we’re not doing anything here. There is not a Navajo energy policy in place. We’re kind of keeping the chapters quiet while they need services – power services.”
Delegate Colorado said, “We have APS service line running right through the middle of the Cameron Chapter area, but APS does not agree with the contract that is being offered to them from the Navajo Nation. Because of that, they are not doing any power line extension over there.
“Cameron Chapter had to go and find funding to get solar panels. The chapter got $1.9 million to get 100 solar panels. The mountain people, way out there, they have electric now and refrigerators in their homes. The chapter did that.
“The authority that the Navajo Nation talks about, they need to include the chapters in that authority so they’ll be negotiating between the chapters, the Navajo Nation and the company, all the way through.
“If we’re going to do a wind farm out here, we’re going to do one that can serve the community,” he said. If they’re not going to provide power to the community, “they’re out of the picture.”
By Kathy Helms
22 April 2008