energy a good idea
By Vernon Masayesva
June 1, 2006
Ariz., - I look forward to a future for the Colorado
Plateau, ancient homeland of the Hopi people, that is
radically different from the one envisioned by the federal
government when the Four Corners area was informally
designated as a “national sacrifice area”
in the 1960s and 1970s.
of Mohave Generating Station, the dirtiest power plant
in the country, on Dec. 31, 2005, has produced new opportunities
that will change the course of history for the Hopi
people and our neighbors, Indian and non-Indian alike.
here is to draw your attention to the recently completed
Study of Potential Mohave Alternative/Complementary
Generation Resources, which examines the feasibility
of building a solar energy plant on Black Mesa.
was ordered by the California Public Utilities Commission
in its decision to shut down Mohave. The commission
was spurred by a proposal, put forward by Black Mesa
Trust and Water & Energy Consulting to build two
400 MW solar generation facilities on Black Mesa –
on tribal lands and with benefits accruing to the tribes.
found that our plan is not only feasible but a good
Lundy, the firm that conducted the study, outlines several
points in favor of the technology we propose to use
– technology developed and then sold off by the
operators of the Mohave plant.
the key findings of the Sargent & Lundy study:
Energy Systems, which now owns the technology, has
already entered into a commercial contract for solar
power with Southern California Edison, principal owner
- The project
has low capital investment and maintenance costs;
- It uses
very little water;
- It does
not produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide;
- The transmission
capacity already exists to get the power to the market;
incentives are included in the Energy Policy Act of
2005 to foster such projects on Indian lands.
engine/dish technology was initially developed by SCE,
then sold to an outside company, and subsequently purchased
by Stirling, which has continued to improve the concept
and the hardware. Considering
California’s requirement that 20 percent of the
electricity used in the state come from renewable energy
sources by 2017 – just over a decade from now
– the Stirling engine/dish solar proposal becomes
a win-win project.
The Hopi and Navajo tribes would gain a revenue source
that respects our values, including preservation of
land and water for future generations, and California
ratepayers would get renewable, non-polluting energy
at a competitive price.
Stirling solar project would produce 1000 MW of electricity
(enough to power 650,000 homes during the day), provide
2,400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, and
inject $7 million into the Hopi and Navajo economies.
for my optimism is that the California utility regulators
on May 11 granted our request to require SCE to set
aside any revenues generated by the sale of sulfur dioxide
credits (which the utility receives for shutting down
a pollution source). If SCE sells any credits, the money
will be held until CPUC figures out what to do about
Mohave on a permanent basis.
This is very
good news for the Just Transition Coalition, which proposed
to the CPUC in January that earnings from the sale of
the sulfur dioxide credits be used to help the Hopi
and Navajo Tribes build capacity to replace the substantial
revenues that they lost when Mohave closed and with
it, the Black Mesa Mine.
asked that those credits be allocated to the tribes
from now until 2026, the latest date at which Mohave
can be shut down permanently.
estimates the sulfur dioxide credits are worth $65 million
a year. SCE’s share of that amount is 56 percent,
proportional to its share of ownership of the power
order directs the utility to establish a “sub-account
to accumulate revenues from the sale of any sulfur credits
created by the December 31, 2005 Mohave closure.”
Aquifer is now safe from exploitation and overdrafting
to feed the coal slurry that transported coal to Mohave,
a great relief to all who depend on it.
something negative is good, it is not enough. We must
now begin to build a positive, healthy, sustainable
future for our grandchildren and the generations to
come. Solar generation of electricity is one answer
for the people of Black Mesa, and we have a proven technology
with which to do it.
former chairman of the Hopi Tribe, is executive director
of the Black Mesa Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting
water resources in the Black Mesa region.