By - Jim Vess

West’s biggest coal-fired power plant, the Navajo Generating Station, is shuttered

Energize Weekly, November 27, 2019

The biggest coal-fired power plant in the West – the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) – beset by uncompetitive economics, closed permanently on Nov. 18 after 45 years of operation.

The 2,250-megawatt (MW) plant located on the Navajo Nation, east of Paige, Ariz., was once a prime source of electricity for the Southwest, including Phoenix and Las Vegas.

In 2017, the owners of the plant – the Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona Public Service Co., NV Energy and Tucson Electric Power – found the plant uneconomical to operate once its current lease with the Navajo Nation expires at the end of this year.

The mine supplying the station, which was also on the Navajo Nation, closed in August after sending its last shipment of coal to the power plant.

The three-unit power plant ran out of coal on Nov. 18 and was taken off line a little after noon.

“NGS will always be remembered as a coal-fired workhorse whose employees made it one of the safest and most reliable power plants in the nation,” Mike Hummel, CEO and general manager at SRP, said in a statement.

“NGS – and its employees – are one reason why this region, the state of Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area have been able to grow and thrive,” Hummel said.

The plant owners will now focus on decommissioning the units. They will pay the Navajo Nation $110 million in lease payments, under a 35-year lease extension, for access to the site for decommissioning activities.

The decommission work will take about three years and cost the owners an estimated $150 million, accord to SRP.

SRP is also working with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to develop renewable energy projects within the Navajo Nation. It has partnered with NTUA on the Kayenta I and II 28-MW solar power plants.

“It is the beginning of a new era for the Navajo Nation and the state of Arizona – the state of new opportunities,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told The Arizona Republic.

“Times are changing, and energy development is changing – the demand for coal-based energy is no longer at its peak not only in our region, but across the country,” Nez said.

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