Going solar: Navajo Tech students team up with GRID Alternatives

Members of GRID Alternatives pose with Navajo Technical University Instructor Ray Griego (third from right) and students after they completed the project at Ojo Encino community March 26-28. (Photo courtesy of Grid Alternatives Representative Sara Mayani Barudin)

Members of GRID Alternatives pose with Navajo Technical University Instructor Ray Griego (third from right) and students after they completed the project at Ojo Encino community March 26-28. (Photo courtesy of Grid Alternatives Representative Sara Mayani Barudin)

OJO ENCINO, N.M. — Students from Navajo Technical University’s Energy Systems and Electrical Engineering programs collaborated with the Colorado-based company GRID Alternatives March 26-28 to install solar panels at a residence in Ojo Encino, New Mexico.

The three-day community service project, Spring Break Solar Installation, involved students from regional universities to set up solar systems at four select homes at no cost to home owners.

“Alternative energy is now becoming a significant discussion in all our communities across the nation and most importantly on Navajo,” said Ray Griego, Energy Systems instructor at NTU. “We have been moving steadily from fossil fuel here on the Navajo Nation, and this shift presents the challenge for our younger generation to explain how to successfully accomplish the transition.”

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Navajo Technical students Tydrin Wauneka (right) and Darrick Lee (left) adjust the photovoltaic panels during a recent solar installation. GRID Alternatives were on-site with students to share proper techniques and knowledge about solar panel installations. (Photo/Navajo Technical University)

GRID Alternatives has done projects in Ojo Encino for the last several years, installing solar systems for low-income families. This year, Navajo Technical University students Darrick Lee, Tydrin Wauneka, Lyndon James, and Taven Chavez volunteered to assist in the effort. Each day students received orientation about the project before going to the house of Franklin Pinto for the installation of the grid tied system.

“They are a very nice group of individuals working on this solar panels being placed near my home. They told me it will reduce my electric bill,” said Mr. Pinto about the solar panel system that is capable of generating up to 350 watts of power. “I’m glad they selected me for this because it is beneficial to our community. Some of us still don’t have power out here and these solar systems can deliver power to those in need.”

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GRID Alternative representatives and Navajo Technical University’s Energy Stystems students work together to install the solar grid tied system at Franklin Pinto’s residence in Ojo Encino March 26-28. (Photo/Navajo Technical University)

GRID Alternatives collaborated with the Ojo Encino Chapter house to select the members of the community to receive the solar installation. GRID Alternatives Tribal Program is a non-profit based in Denver, CO with alliances helping specific populations. At the Ojo Encino community project, GRID Alternatives tribal program representatives were on-site to ensure the quality of the installations and provide adequate information for the volunteers and members of the community receiving the solar power systems.

The systems are estimated to reduce energy cost by approximately 60-70%. The projects can range from single rooftop installations to large-scale systems capable of providing energy to a community. The system designs by the teams installed at Ojo Encino were the grid tied system. The system designs were fixed at four homes in the community with NTU students assisting with the final home project.

Navajo Technical University offers an Associate of Applied Science in Energy Systems and Engineering Technology as well as baccalaureate degrees in Electrical Engineering and Industrial Engineering. The university’s engineering programs was recently endorsed by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology Inc. or ABET. To learn more about the Energy Systems program contact Program Advisor Ray Griego at rgriego@navajotech.edu or at 505-786-4308. For more information about NTU’s Electrical Engineering program, please contact Dr. Peter Romine at promine@navajotech.edu.

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