Navajos tapping into wind

Major wind power generation is blowing into the Four Corners for the first time. The Navajo Nation, the same government body pushing the Desert Rock Power Plant, is also exploring renewable energy. The tribe has signed an agreement with Citizens Energy Corp. to develop large wind energy projects on Navajo lands.

The agreement, signed by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., Citizens Energy President Joseph P. Kennedy II and the Diné Power Authority solidified the partnership. Together, they plan to develop more than 500 megawatts of wind energy in several locations throughout the Navajo Nation. By comparison, Desert Rock would generate 1,500 megawatts as one of the largest plants in the West. “By working together to harness the power of the wind, we can bring economic prosperity for the Navajo people and build our energy independence,” said Shirley.

Nearly two years of work predated the agreement. DPA General Manager Steven C. Begay explained that the Navajo Nation is striving for a “balanced energy future.” The nation is home to the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant, outside of Farmington.“Wind, solar and other renewables are essential to a balanced energy future for the Navajo Nation, the U.S. and the global community,” Begay said. “Citizens Energy’s demonstrated commitment to bringing benefits to Native communities was essential in the decision to proceed with this developer.” Citizens Energy is also pleased to be nudging the Navajo Nation toward a more sustainable future. “This project ... will provide sustained economic and environmental benefits for the Navajo people,” said Kennedy

Under the joint venture, the Navajo Nation will have a significant ownership stake in the project and have the opportunity to invest additional equity in the project, eventually acquiring a majority ownership stake. Citizens also has agreed to reinvest a portion of the profits from the project on the Navajo Nation.

Early estimates anticipate the Diné Wind Project could produce between $60 to $100 million for the Navajo Nation over the lifetime of the projects, not including jobs, improved quality of life and environmental benefits.


Local biodiesel provides global relief

A local man is using alternative fuels to help erase global poverty. Tim Waterfield, of Pagosa Springs, has started Planet Biodiesel to produce environmentally friendly fuel and ease hardship in Cambodia.

Waterfield first visited Cambodia in 2002 during a bicycle tour of Southeast Asia. He was struck by the friendliness and hospitality of the Khmer people despite their extreme poverty.After returning to the United States, he started Planet Biodiesel, a biodiesel company based in Pagosa. Realizing this was a technology that could be put to use in the developing world, Waterfield made plans to start a charity based on biodiesel fuel.

Selling his house and most of his possessions, he returned to Cambodia in 2006. His first six months there were spent studying the language and analyzing the needs of the culture. His most shocking discovery was the condition of the educational system. Public school teachers in Cambodia are not paid a living wage and are forced to collect tuition from students. The result is that Cambodia is populated by undereducated children.

Planet Biodiesel Outreach Cambodia was founded to address this problem. The first order of business was to design an energy system for a school that was sustainable, environmentally friendly and available locally. A biodiesel production system was built, which uses waste cooking oil, recovers excess alcohol, and treats the waste water. Biodiesel now fuels their school bus and a diesel generator produces electricity. The school now has 160 students learning a variety of subjects. Five full time teachers are on staff to oversee classes. They provide education, food, clothing, school supplies and transportation free to all students.

“Now that we have the school up and running, our next goal is to reach financial sustainability,” Waterfield said. “We have started a tour company here in Cambodia that is powered by waste vegetable oil and is nearly non-polluting. This gives people the opportunity to come to a beautiful place, help the children and protect the planet at the same time.”

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New forest plan deadline approaching

The window is closing for Southwest Colorado residents to comment on future management of the area’s public lands. The comment period for the San Juan Public Lands Draft Land Management Plan Revision ends April 11.

The plan guides long-term management for the 2.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management and national forest lands in Southwestern Colorado. The current plan has been in place since 1983, and there is widespread agreement that it is hopelessly outdated. Since 1983, recreation and oil and gas development have boomed and fuels reduction has largely replaced traditional logging.

“The revision is really looking for balance,” said Thurman Wilson, assistant manager of the San Juan Public Lands Center. “Probably the biggest thing that came out of the public involvement was a desire to preserve our large, undeveloped areas while maintaining some of the traditional uses.”

The proposed revision addresses a wide spectrum of public lands issues – oil and gas leasing; public lands grazing; the creation of a West Hermosa Wilderness; Wild and Scenic Rivers; and more. The public now has just one more week to decide whether the agency has accomplished its goal. Public comments on the draft plan will be accepted through March 12 and can be submitted at, where the entire plan is also available for review. Written comments can also be faxed to (916) 456-6724 or mailed to: San Juan Plan Revision, P.O. Box 162909, Sacramento, CA 95816-2909.

Center of SW Studies taps director

Kevin Britz has been named as the new director of the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College. He replaces interim director Jeanne Brako.

Britz has experience with historical organizations across the nation. In 1982, he worked as museum curator, and later as deputy director, for the Stearns County Historical Society in Minnesota. He moved on to The High Desert Museum in Oregon, where he served as director of exhibits, senior curator and vice president for programs. Britz will start work in Durango this July.

“We are delighted with the selection of Dr. Kevin Britz for the CSWS directorship,” said John Ninnemann, dean of FLC’s School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences. “Kevin impressed everyone with a clear understanding and vision for the center consistent with that of the Advisory Board and staff. He is a proven team builder and fund-raiser, bringing with him ambitious but realistic goals for the center.”

The Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College was established in 1964 as the first Southwest Studies center in the nation. The institution serves as a museum and a research facility and is responsible for an interdisciplinary Southwest curriculum.

– Will Sands