Hydropower permits denied on Navajo land

Davenport

Member
Jan 28, 2024
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In what appears to be a major win for the Navajo Nation, the hydropower projects will not be moving forward after federal regulators denied the necessary permits. One reason for the denial was that the developers failed to consult the tribe about the project and the surrounding land. Initially, the project was given the green light to move forward while the regulators gathered more information and the debate took place, so this is an unusual change. Still, it's nice to see that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is prepared to admit when they've taken a wrong turn. This story has been in the news for a while, and I've been waiting to see the resolution. I'm glad the permits were denied.
 
Location
Navajo County, Arizona, United States
Setting aside the FERC permit denials, I do think that the "pumped storage" hydropower concept actually sounds pretty neat. Here's a description of the projects as provided in this article on the permit denials:
The “pumped storage” hydropower projects under review use water stored at higher-elevation reservoirs that flows downhill through a turbine, generating electricity, before ending up in a lower reservoir. Then, when electricity demand is lower, that water is pumped back up to the upper reservoir to start the process over again.

So the pumps and reservoir basically act as a battery to store the potential energy of the water. There are several large solar farms out in the desert, so the idea must be to store excess solar energy generated during the day using pumped storage, then use that energy at night when demand is high but there's obviously no solar generation.

Seems like the projects would have had important benefits in terms of renewable energy storage so it's too bad they couldn't move forward. Unfortunately, FERC had to deny the permits because the projects were sited entirely on Navajo land and the Navajo were opposed to issuance of the permits. FERC stated they were implementing a new policy requiring that any project proposed on tribal land must gain the respective tribe’s consent to be approved. It will be interesting to see how this policy (at FERC and other agencies) affects future efforts to develop infrastructure on tribal lands.
 
How can they apply for a permit without consulting the local tribes in the protected land. They should have first asked if Navajo need hydro electricity in their place. I am in support of permit being denied. Not all places need to be developed, some places need to let it remain in its originality.
 
If they can find land that isn't Navajo land, they could potentially make this work. I think hydropower is a great system to implement, especially when it can benefit the community. If anything, why not work more with the Navajo and see if they can spare any land for this project. I'm sure they can find an alternative location they can use.
 
If they can find land that isn't Navajo land, they could potentially make this work. I think hydropower is a great system to implement, especially when it can benefit the community. If anything, why not work more with the Navajo and see if they can spare any land for this project. I'm sure they can find an alternative location they can use.
I'm assuming they are using land that is near a body of water, maybe a lake or river. So in a sense, that would be a bit tough to move it to a different location. Though I'm sure they could easily figure out some sort of solution where they can use the land, but have to contract it out with the Navajo. If the Navajo are more in control, I think I'd accept this happening. But otherwise, I don't trust people to do right by the Navajo.
 
I believe if the Navajo nation are approached respectfully, and are given ownership in the project a more positive result for our nation and their nation might happen.
 
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