Solar and Wind Units Bring Energy to Navajos

A Laguna Pueblo designer of solar and wind energy components is bringing lights and refrigeration for the first time to 50 homes in the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Laguna Pueblo designer of solar and wind energy components is bringing lights and refrigeration for the first time to 50 homes in the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

"We are bringing power to them for the first times in their lives. They are ecstatic," said Dave Melton, co-owner of Sacred Power Corp. in Albuquerque.

Thanks to a partnership between Sacred Power and the Navajo chapter houses of Torreon and Ojo Encino, 50 homes, among the 10,000 homes without electricity on the Navajo Nation, are receiving electricity generated utilizing photovoltaic (PV) systems designed, manufactured and installed by Sacred Power.

"It is terrific: more and more people are hearing about the project and hoping to participate," said Melton, who hopes additional funding will be forthcoming from the USDA Rural Utility Service for more homes.

The solar and wind hybrids bring power so Navajo children will not have to study by the dim light of kerosene lanterns. Sacred Power also provides an energy-efficient refrigerator for Navajo families' food and medicines.


"We are the largest Native American renewable energy system integration manufacturer in the country. We manufacture our own designs," Melton told Indian Country Today.

Melton said the units provide good, clean energy and the company is providing jobs for American Indians. During recent installations at Ojo Encino and Torreon chapters, the company hired two Navajos.

Besides the local effect, Melton said the company has a global effect by not adding to greenhouse gasses and pollution from power plants.

"We are able to help the people, especially those who are not in the best situation to help themselves. We feel really good about what we are doing."

Ojo Encino President Ted Mace said many Navajo homes are without electricity and running water and it is frustrating.

"This is no ordinary endeavor, as these homes have never had any source of energy. Now they can turn on the Christmas lights and feel good about it because the power source will be environmentally friendly," Mace said in a statement.

Torreon Chapter President Joe Cayaditto pushed for the project in an effort to jump start tribal businesses. "The potential for restaurants, bed and breakfasts and other businesses could provide much-needed economic development," he said.

Sacred Power is an American Indian-owned company specializing in solar power. Currently there are 14 employees, including Jemez Pueblo, Acoma Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, Navajo, Hispanic and Anglo.

"It is a real New Mexico mix," Melton said.

With power plants surrounding the Navajo Nation and Navajo coal used to produce electricity for the Southwest, Melton is among the energy-wise businessmen realizing Navajos in remote areas have been ignored.

Melton said the high cost of bringing power to rural homes in Indian country has deterred energy providers. As a result, many Indian rural homes have been overlooked and have gone too long without power.

"Local utility companies have high voltage lines within 'throwing distance' of some of the homes, yet cannot afford to install transformers to drop voltages to residential levels and extend the grid," said Sacred Power co-owner Odes Armijo-Caster.

The operation and utilization of PV hybrids is critical, the company said. Sacred Power provides energy-efficient lighting (compact fluorescent) and high efficiency refrigeration units that work well with PV, wind and battery systems.

Sacred Power also provides training and education to recipients. Sacred Power is training new employees and new entrepreneurs at Navajo chapter houses to maintain the systems. Local homeowners will be able to have local assistance with the units.

Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News