Navajo energy to get help from lab

FARMINGTON – Sandia National Laboratories has extended an agreement with the Navajo Nation to provide technical assistance as the tribe seeks to develop its energy resources.

The agreement announced Friday continues the cooperative relationship between the federal lab and the tribe for another five years, with another automatic five-year extension unless one of the parties opts out.

“We’re now in a position to find ways and solutions for our energy that coincide with a more progressive approach that is long-term versus the get-rich-quick kind of scheme,” said Erny Zah, a spokesman for Navajo President Ben Shelly.

Tribal leaders, who have been working on energy policy for about a year and half, want to approach energy with careful planning.

The agreement comes as the tribe is forging an energy policy to take advantage of coal, natural gas, wind and solar resources on Navajo land.

Navajo Mine provides coal to the adjacent Four Corners Power Plant west of Farmington. The mine is operated by BHP Billiton through a lease with the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation also boasts some natural gas reserves and has strong potential for solar and wind development.

“They’re taking energy policy on for the first time in a strategic way,” said Rick Stulen, vice president for energy programs at Sandia National Laboratories. “What they’re doing right now is really important.”

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