Navajo Nation to Invest in Electric Grid Interconnection Project


Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said the tribe is considering investing in an electricity grid project that would allow the Nation to sell its power nationwide.

Shelly met with the developers behind the $1.5 billion Tres Amigas, LLC on February 29, according to the tribe's media release.

The Tres Amigas Electricity SuperStation—set to break ground in July 2012—will unite the United States' three major electricity grids. The station is being built on 22.5 square miles of range land in Clovis, New Mexico, near the border of Texas.

"Our future in Tres Amigas is to establish a connection to be a major energy partner and to bring a permanent stream of revenue to the nation," Shelly said in the release.

Shelly's office said the tribe might invest at least $12 million in the project, reported. The president's office has yet to determine how to get the investment funds, although Shelly is expected to work with the Tribal Council on creating a bond initiative.

The current electricity grids in the U.S. "operate as islands," according to Tres Amigas' website, separately serving the eastern and western halves of the country, with a third grid serving Texas.

The new interconnection hub, first proposed in 2009, will open opportunities for the buying and selling of power across the three grids. The goal is to develop and expand the transmission infrastructure to one day provide renewable energy projects—including wind, solar and geothermal—access to multiple power markets nationwide.

Shelly's spokesman Erny Zah said investing in Tres Amigas could increase the tribe's incentive to further develop green energy projects. The tribe is in the process of developing and exploring the potential for several wind and solar projects—among them, the Boquillas Wind Farm to be built on land owned by the tribe in Coconino County, Arizona. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which currently serves Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, will prospectively own the majority of that wind farm project.

Through Tres Amigas, the Navajo Nation will also have the ability to establish its own distribution contracts.

"We're looking now to become actual partners and producers rather than being dependent upon outside companies giving us lease fees and royalty fees," Zah said. "We're looking to be a player rather than being a dependent."

New Mexico lawmakers are also backing the project. Gov. Susana Martinez recently authorized tax incentives, opening doors for Tres Amigas to base its headquarters and an associated trading floor in the state.