Largest coal plant to be replaced by solar in the western U.S.
A massive solar array built in 2017, in the desert near Arizona’s border, provides power for around 18,000 Navajo homes. The construction of the second solar plant will begin later this year as per the officials. And on the another corner of Navajo land, the largest coal plant west of the Mississippi River is preparing to close 25 years ahead of schedule, despite of some last-minute actions to save it.
The coal plant, called the Navajo Generating Station, was built in the 1970s to provide power to growing populations in Southern California, Arizona and anearby coal mine supplies the power plant with coal. As recently as 2014, the coal plant wasn’t expected to close until 2044 which is a date negotiated with the EPA to reduce air pollution. But reduced demand for coal, driven both by economics and climate action, means that the plant is scheduled to close in 2019 instead.
In 2016, Los Angeles, which owned a 21% share in the plant, completed a sale of its share to reduce city emissions. In 2017, the remaining owners announced that they would close the plant because coal power is no longer economically competitive.
The first Kayenta solar farm, which started operating in April 2017, has 120,000 panels mounted on trackers that follow the sun to generate as much power as possible. Renewable energy can also bring new economic opportunity and replace the earlier industry. Once a solar plant is put up, it just sits there and produces money and energy. It doesn’t use water, and it doesn’t degrade the landscape hence the solar plant is more focussed on and not the coal one.