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The Navajo Hopi Land Commission (NHLCO), together with its partners, will conduct a feasibility study (FS) of a program to develop renewable energy on the Paragon-Bisti ranch lands in northwestern New Mexico, which were set aside under the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act for the benefit of relocatees (defined as Navajo families living on Hopi Partitioned Lands as of December 22, 1974).

The ultimate vision is a multi-phase, 22,000-acre renewable energy program, principally photovoltaic (PV), which could ultimately produce over 4,000 megawatts (MW) of clean solar power, as well as other renewables such as geothermal and wind. The first phase, a preliminary critical issues analysis, has already been completed. The FS under this agreement constitutes the second phase. Subsequent phases are Preconstruction, Construction, and Operations and Maintenance (O&M), included herein for reference only.

Project Description


Based on the Resolution and Declaration, steps are already under way to earn tribal community support. The NHLCO has been working with the tribe for more than four years to bring this program to fruition. The team, which has successfully seen local and municipal RE programs through from inception to community/legislative acceptance, will also conduct education/outreach efforts, and establish working relationships with Navajo stakeholders. Teaming and partnering meetings will also be hosted with non-Navajo Nation stakeholders, including federal, state, and local government agencies and nongovernmental organizations (e.g., Dine Power Authority, Dine College, and Navajo Technical College).

The Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) is an ad hoc advisory committee to the Navajo Nation Council, as of April 19, 2011. The EAC comprises the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, the president's advisor on energy policy, the president's capital investment/business advisor, and the attorney general, as well as three others. These offices hold key responsibilities in the approval or granting of land leases permits, rights-of-way, and water rights for energy developments that include wind and solar. The EAC coordinates the review process of their respective offices by sharing information and resources. Their key goal is to optimize the long-term benefits, economic and otherwise, realized by the Navajo Nation from renewable energy developments. The EAC achieves this by setting policies regarding land lease terms and rental/royalty rates, allocation of development rights, and project ownership by the Navajo Nation and its agencies. The EAC uses a comprehensive financial model to evaluate project ownership structure options and royalty/lease rates and to estimate the prospective economic benefits that will be realized by the Navajo Nation and its agencies.

Project Objectives

The ultimate goal of the program is to develop the Navajo Nation's renewable energy assets into the most successful program among Tribes in the nation, producing economically viable power using sustainable natural resources, unlocking the value of tribal lands to benefit tribal members and the relocatees.

The energy vision of the Navajo Nation is to establish itself as a leading provider of clean commercial power on a scale that is among the largest of all tribal nations. Over the next 10 years, NHLCO will work with its partner firms and bring on developers to establish solar ranches on Paragon-Bisti Ranch. The solar ranches will range in size from a few hundred megawatts (MW) to well over 1 gigawatt of power. The property will generate revenue for the Tribe via land leases and royalties on power production. In addition, the Tribe will benefit from employment opportunities during both construction and O&M.

The program concept is to develop approximately six solar ranches at the Paragon-Bisti ranch over five phases along a staggered timeline. Site potentials range from approximately 160 MW to 1,640 MW.

  • Phase I — Critical Issues Analysis of entire Paragon-Bisti Ranch (already completed)

  • Phase II — Feasibility Study (subject of this project) to: determine the technical/economic viability of the renewable energy program, survey/characterize the entire site, subdivide 22,000 acres into six individual solar ranches, develop life cycle cost-benefit model, and explore opportunities for training/employment of tribal members

The following phases are not part of this project and are included for reference only:

  • Phase III — Preconstruction, including: conduct all planning; define boundaries, basic infrastructure, environmental studies, and permitting; draft and issue Request for Information, Request for Qualifications, Request for Proposal, and bid package in turn; develop financial models and lease agreement; conduct an independent capital cost estimate and an engineering economic analysis/investment-grade financial proforma; review qualifications and proposals; and select best value developers.

  • Phase IV — Construction, including: sign lease and partnering agreement; conduct partnering meetings between NHLCO, the Navajo Nation, the developer, and other stakeholders; make construction preparations, develop engineering design; submit plans; obtain environmental permits; conduct transmission line studies; negotiate power purchase agreements (PPAs); mobilize the project team; prepare the site; make infrastructure improvements; complete construction; and complete grid-tie.

  • Phase V — Long-term O&M

Working closely with partners, NHLCO has developed a multi-phase approach to meet the objectives of developing this 4,000-MW ranch on the Paragon-Bisti site over the next decade. Note that Phase I, a preliminary critical issues analysis, has already been completed.

The goals of Phase II — Feasibility Study (subject of this project) specifically are to:

  • Determine the technical and economic viability of the renewable energy program
  • Survey and characterize the entire site
  • Apportion the 22,000-acre site into approximately six individual solar ranches
  • Develop and model the lifecycle cost and benefits of the program
  • Explore opportunities for training and employment of tribal members.
Project Scope

Feasibility study tasks for the Paragon Ranch Solar Project are as follows: Note that the numeral 2 before all of the tasks/subtasks designates that the feasibility study (subject of this project) is the second phase of the entire five-phase solar development project. Phase I, the Preliminary Study/Critical Issues Analysis, was completed in December 2010.

  • 2.1. a. Finalize BIA, DOE, tribal project needs;
  • 2.1. b. Determine funding mechanism for Phase 3;
  • 2.1. c. Define potential interconnect and PPA options;
  • 2.1. d. Begin agreements utility companies, Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), DOE, and developers;
  • 2.1. e. Determine infrastructure needs to support development; and
  • 2.1. f. Select candidate project developers and determine interest in project.
  • 2.1. g. Define National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) requirements;
  • 2.1. h. Define environmental and permitting costs in detail;
  • 2.2. a. Begin environmental studies and permitting for the six parcels; and
  • 2.3. a. Finalize approaches to subdivide site.
  • 2.4. a. Explore training opportunities and employment for tribal members
  • 2.5. a. Finalize rental rates and backend megawatt (MW)
  • 2.6. a. Develop a model for the lifecycle of the program
Project Location

The NHLCO envisions a multi-phase, 22,000-acre renewable energy program, principally PV, which could ultimately produce more than 4,000 MW of clean solar power, as well as other renewables such as geothermal and wind. The project is to be located on the Paragon-Bisti Ranch lands in northwestern New Mexico, which were set aside under the NHLSA for the benefit of relocatees (defined as Navajo families living on Hopi Partitioned Lands as of December 22, 1974). More specifically, the project site is a mix of land conveyances from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to the Navajo Nation, held in trust, plus existing tribal lands abutting boundaries of the Paragon-Bisti Ranch. These are located east of Highway 371, about between Farmington and Crownpoint, New Mexico, in Townships 22–24N, Ranges 11–13W.

Project Status

The project is complete. For details, see the final report.

The project was competitively selected under the Tribal Energy Program's fiscal year 2011 funding opportunity announcement "Renewable Energy Development and Deployment in Indian Country" (DE-FOA-0000422) and started in June 2012.

The November 2012, March 2014, and May 2015 project status reports provide more information.

Project Overview

Navajo Nation/Navajo Hopi Land Commission Office (NHLCO)


Project Title
Feasibility Study for 4,000 MW Solar Power at Paragon-Bisti Ranch

Type of Application

DOE Grant Number

Project Amounts
DOE: $339,414
Awardee: $2,103
Total: $341,517

Project Status
See project status »

Project Period of Performance
Start: June 2012
End: December 2013