The 2,250-MW Navajo Generating Station (NGS) near Page, Ariz., and the associated Kayenta coal mine may close in 2017 as a result of the impact of low natural gas prices, environmental regulations, and lease considerations, according to the plant’s owner.

The Arizona Republic reported on January 4 that Salt River Project (SRP), the plant’s owner and operator, “has been negotiating to keep it open but faces a variety of headwinds, from retrofits required by federal environmental regulations to renewing a property lease with the Navajo Nation.” SRP spokesman Scott Harelson told the paper the company expects to make a decision by spring.

The plant, which sits on the Navajo Nation, went online in 1974 and serves Arizona, Nevada, and California customers. It is owned (in order of percentage) by SRP, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service Co., NV Energy, and Tucson Electric Power. The plant supplies more than 90% of the power needed to pump water through the Central Arizona Project, which helps supply water to Phoenix and Tucson.

NGS burns low-sulfur bituminous coal but has long been a target of environmentalists. Its contributions to regional haze, in a region with several high-profile national parks, including Grand Canyon, have been an ongoing concern.

The 2,250-MW Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona. Courtesy: Gail Reitenbach
The 2,250-MW Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona. Courtesy: Gail Reitenbach

SRP says the plant’s electrostatic precipitators capture 99% of the fly ash, which is recycled; limestone scrubbers remove over 95% of SO2 emissions; and low-NOx burners and separated overfire air technology reduce NOx emissions by approximately 40%.

The plant’s lease with the Navajo Nation is set to expire in 2019, and there has been speculation that the owners would shut the plant down at that time rather than renew the lease.

SRP notes that the plant is an important employer for the Navajo Nation, “employing nearly 500 full-time employees, more than 90% of whom are Navajo.”

Gail Reitenbach, PhD, editor (@GailReit, @POWERmagazine)