9/3/2013 10:01:00 AM Navajo Council approves solar power development agreement for 300 acre site in Iyanbito
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - On the final day of the summer session, the Navajo Nation Council approved an energy development agreement that permits the development of a solar power system on approximately 300 acres of land in the community of Iyanbito.
The agreement between the Navajo Nation and Nabeeho' Power, L.L.C., also approves use of the equipment needed to capture, distribute, and transmit solar energy.
Legislation Sponsor Council Delegate Charles Damon II asked the council to support the bill, noting that the bill received positive recommendations from the Resources and Development Committee and Naabik'iyáti' Committee.
"The solar system industry is really booming and we would like to be a part of it so the Navajo people can benefit," Damon said.
Amber Schillinger, owner of Nabehho' Power, said she aspires to help Navajo people by bringing employment and economic development opportunities to Iyanbito.
"I would like to have the chance to create jobs and keep our Navajo scholarships here on the Nation," Schillinger said.
Not everyone at the Iyanbito Chapter supported the bill. There were eight chapter resolutions submitted opposing the solar project.
Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie explained to his colleagues that chapter constituents had many unanswered questions about the solar project and motioned to table the legislation until those questions were answered.
"There are many questions the chapter has brought forth," he said. "In all fairness, we need more clarification to make a solid decision."
Several council members questioned the solar project's financing and requested assurance that the land would not sit undeveloped during the 25-year lifetime of the energy agreement.
Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates proposed an amendment that the council approved which addressed this issue. It said Nabeeho' Power is required to acquire and complete financing no later than 365 days or it can be reconsidered.
"I propose this admendment so that we are not sitting on this project 25 years down the road," Bates said.
Delegate Witherspoon also addressed the financial concerns.
"Often we have model projects that don't move forward because financing is not reputable," Witherspoon said. "Projects like this also face opposition from chapters, tribal administration, the Navajo Department of Justice and even our own Energy Task Force."
Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie commended Nabeeho Power for working through the administrative process to create an economic opportunity.
"We should encourage young Navajo people to come home with their new found knowledge and start businesses," Tsosie said. "Our words are empty if we tell our children to work hard and then turn them away when they try to start a business."
Yazzie asked the council to respect the wishes of the elders in Iyanbito.
"I am glad we are debating this, but I stand with the people of Iyanbito and will vote against this bill," Yazzie said.
Delegates approved the legislation with a 11-5 vote.