New substation doubles Shiprock power

SHIPROCK, NEW MEXICO - The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority put into service a new electric substation in Shiprock with equipment that more than doubles the community's capacity to supply electricity to new homes and businesses.

The new service station, east of Mesa Elementary School off U.S. 491, is capable of receiving as much as 12 megawatts of electricity from power plant suppliers, providing an alternative to the 50-year-old, 7.5-megawatt substation that has neared its maximum capacity.

The substation project, which began development in early 2009, cost more than $3.5 million.

Construction of the new substation was urgent because recent development in the Shiprock area continues to require new electricity supplies that without expansion would overwhelm available equipment, utility Shiprock District Manager Eugene John said.

"It came to the point where we almost had to have some curtailment of power supply," John said.

The new facility is capable of providing electricity to as many as 8,000 new homes in the Shiprock district, which reaches from Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., to Hogback, and south to Sheep Springs.

The new equipment is expected to support business and residential development in the region for at least 20 years, electric engineering supervisor Lester Lee said. Although the old equipment neared its peak electrical load, the substation did not reach the level where power was cut to residents.

"Since we maxed out on the substation, we really didn't have any more capacity for continued growth," Lee said. "That really hampered adding new customers."

Implementing two power substations also allows the equipment to serve as an automatic backup in case of power loss at one of the facilities, Lee said. Remaining in operation, the old facility could maintain temporary electric supply to the community if the new substation goes out of service. The new facility also will be able to serve as backup equipment.

The project, which was funded entirely by the utility authority, is an investment in the Shiprock community, ensuring that businesses or residents interested in relocating to the area have the electricity they need, John said.

Requests for state funding assistance for the substation were denied.

"We'll be at the front side of more opportunities for the Navajo people," John said. "We won't be at the tail end."

The dedication of the substation also celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the tribal utility association, welcoming area customers to its district offices across the Navajo Nation to learn more about how the different utility services work.


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