Four Corners Solar Projects Move Forward

SJCA has long advocated for a just and equitable transition from reliance on coal-fired power plants to renewable resources in the Four Corners Region. Many of the coal complexes in the Four Corners region are closed or closing, primarily due to economic factors: coal-derived electricity costs are now far more expensive than those of renewables.

Among these closures were the Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine (2019), and Escalante Generating Station (2020). We are also preparing for the pending closure of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022 and Four Corners Power Plant before 2031. We have long advocated for replacement of these coal plants with 100% renewable resources and are now seeing those efforts come to fruition.

Now, the Four Corners region is seeing the possibility of a remarkable shift to investment in renewable energy. One major investment, the Four Corners Solar Center, comprises several projects amounting to approximately 1,400 MW of solar photovoltaic and battery storage facility proposed by Photosol.

There are three distinct projects that are part of the Four Corners Solar Center, each hundreds of megawatts in size:

  • Three projects called San Juan Solar located adjacent to San Juan Generating Station to the east.
  • Shiprock Solar, located contiguous with San Juan Generating Station on the west.
  • Four Corners project on approximately 3,500 acres of previously disturbed Navajo Coal Mine land adjacent to the Four Corners Power Plant.

One key aspect of these projects is their replacement of lost property taxes from closure of the coal plant. The solar projects total about a $600 million investment in the Central Consolidated School District and will replace San Juan County property taxes of $3.5 million paid by San Juan Generating Station. The projects also will utilize existing transmission lines and substations. Total current solar project proposals for the northwestern New Mexico region are at least 1,788 MW, far exceeding the 847 MW that will be lost when San Juan Generating Station closes in 2022.

San Juan Generating Station, and the site of the planned Shiprock Solar Project.

These projects ensure that northwestern New Mexico will help meet the state’s goal for utilities to produce energy from 100% carbon-free sources by 2045. In addition to these new energy projects, the recently passed Energy Transition Act assists impacted communities with $20 million for sustainable economic projects like tourism, health care, education, agriculture, and renewable energy innovation.

We’ll be working for final approval of solar projects in the Four Corners region over the coming year. The focus on renewable solar energy and battery storage as replacement for the region represents the potential for the Four Corners region to become a preeminent battery storage hub. Additionally, the investment in renewable energy associated with the abandonment of San Juan Generating Station and early retirement scenarios for Four Corners Power Plant make Enchant’s speculative carbon capture and carbon sequestration project even more dubious and doubtful.

This is a transformative time for our region, representing a monumental benefit for impacted communities with a path to economic diversification and renewable energy investment.

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