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SRP closing coal-fired Navajo, investing in solar-storage combos

Arizona utility Salt River Project continues to ramp down its carbon footprint by closing down a long-running coal-fired plant and positioning itself for more renewables adoption.

The Phoenix-based public utility confirmed that the Navajo Generating Station (pictured) will officially shut down within days, if not already. The 2,250-MW coal-fired plant has been targeted for closure because of its age, operational economics and an original lease running out, according to reports.

Meanwhile, SRP announced it was making big investments in two solar and storage projects. These include the Sonoran Energy Center and the Storey Energy Center, which will combine for more than 300 MW in solar-storage combined capacity.

Photo courtesy of SRP

“These integrated solar and storage plants will allow SRP to meet its summer peak demand, reduce carbon emissions, and provide clean energy to our customers while optimizing energy output using state-of-the-art battery technology,” said SRP CEO Mike Hummel. “In addition, these plants will get SRP more than 60 percent toward our goal of adding 1,000 MW of new utility-scale, solar energy to its system by the end of fiscal year 2025.”

Sonoran Energy Center will be an approximately 250-MW system with the solar array charging a 1 GWh energy storage system and will be built in Little Rainbow Valley, south of Buckeye.

Photo courtesy of SRP

The Storey Energy Center will be an approximately 88-MW solar and energy storage system and is scheduled to be built south of Coolidge.

The projects were chosen as the result of an open “All-Source” solicitation for resources and will help serve SRP’s summer peak load. Both plants are scheduled to be online by June 2023 and will be owned and operated by subsidiaries of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC.

The Navajo Generating Station closure could displace close to 500 workers, according to reports. SRP, however, is relocating more than half of those to other facilities.

The coal-fired plant in the Navajo Nation has been in operation since the mid-1970s. Several entities, including the tribe, had explored options to acquire it but eventually declined.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International, happening next week in New Orleans. POWERGEN will feature dozens of content sessions on the future of coal-fired generation, solar power and energy storage.