(Adds financial details, interview details with Navajo
By Timothy Gardner
NEW YORK, March 27 The Navajo Nation, which has
struggled for years to build a coal-fired power plant, said on
Thursday it has formed a joint venture with a Boston company to
develop 500 megawatts of wind energy on its land in the U.S.
Navajo Nation President Joseph Shirley signed an agreement
with Joseph P. Kennedy II, the chairman and president of
Boston-based Citizens Energy Corp, to develop the $350 million
to $400 million project.
The agreement forms a joint venture between Citizens, a
global developer of renewable energy and power transmission,
and Dine Power Authority, the Navajo's wholesale energy
enterprise. Construction of the wind farm is planned to begin
in 2010 or earlier.
Wind power "can bring economic prosperity for the Navajo
people and build our energy independence while providing jobs
and other benefits for the Navajo Nation," Shirley said in a
Under terms of the agreement, the Navajos would have an
ownership stake in the project development company and be able
to invest additional equity in the project, eventually
acquiring a majority ownership stake, according to the
statement from the Washington office of the Navajos.
Citizens Energy has also agreed to reinvest a portion of
the profits from the project on the Navajo Nation, it said.
Early estimates anticipate the Dine Wind Project could
produce between $60 million and $100 million in total revenue
for the Navajo Nation over the lifetime of the project, not
including the jobs and environmental benefits of wind energy,
the Navajo statement said.
About 200,000 people live on the Navajo Nation, a sovereign
nation about the size of West Virginia, which spreads over
Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The Nation has been plagued by
poverty and unemployment and many residents do not have power
or running water.
Shirley has supported building a coal-fired power plant
called Desert Rock, which, he says, would bring about $50
million to the tribe annually.
The going has been hard for the coal plant. The Navajo
Nation and Sithe Global Power, LLC, are trying to build the $3
billion to $4 billion 1,500 MW plant, but they have been
stalled for years because the U.S. Environmental Protection
Administration has not issued it an air permit.
Desert Rock has also been criticized by some Navajos for
its potential to pollute the air in a place where two large
coal plants already operate. And Sithe has not yet decided
whether it would bury its emissions of the main greenhouse gas
carbon dioxide, which has also led to criticism.
The Navajo Nation sued the EPA last week over its lack of
action on the air permit.
Some Navajos also complain that most of the power from the
coal plant would be exported to high-demand areas in Arizona
and Nevada and that many of them could still be left without
power. Navajo spokesman Deswood Tome said in a telephone
interview that wind power would bring more electricity to the
nation's developing communities.
If the wind power project is successful, it could be a
significant addition to alternative power generation in the
United States. Installed U.S. wind power by the end of 2007 was
nearly 17,000 MW, according to an industry group.
(Editing by Christian Wiessner)