Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Tue, Oct. 27

Plateau solar shifts Navajo elders from kerosene lamps to solar electricity

LEUPP, Ariz. - The first five underprivileged rural Navajo elders qualified by USDA Rural Development grant for a 2 KW solar system will receive solar electricity in time to light up their home for the new year. In 2010 Plateau Solar Project submitted 78 grant applications to USDA Rural Development and will commence its rollout of 35 solar installations within the Leupp Navajo Chapter area. According to Navajo tribal statistics there are approximately 18,000 rural homes without electricity and indoor plumbing on the Navajo Nation.

After conducting a thorough field study in the southern Former Bennett Freeze Area, non-profit IINA Solutions and Mark Snyder Electric determined the key to improving the quality of life for rural Navajo elders is through solar energy particularly in an area with an abundance of sun virtually year around, so Plateau Solar Project was established. The undertaking required extensive field work with the assistance of USDA Prescott Valley Office and the Leupp Chapter Coordinator to get through issues with remote rural homes and long trips on rough dirt roads to assess each elder's home.

Designing a solar system with a 25-year life cycle including a viable maintenance program was crucial due to the high number of failed solar units in rural Navajo. With Plateau Solar each elder will pay a monthly maintenance fee as the system evolves to include solar thermal and full bathroom with shower, sink and composting toilet. The fee pays for a trained local maintenance man and life cycle parts. The elder and a designated family member will perform non-technical work and upkeep to help.

Plateau Solar Project is the first comprehensive and clean energy solution in Indian Country. It brings electricity, water and sanitation to underserved and disabled elders given that electrical grid expansion to rural areas is very costly for the tribal government. The project comes in three phases and utilizes many forms of solar energy. High efficiency Day4 solar photovoltaic power modules, Solar Roofs solar thermal hot air modules for space heating, Solar Roofs hot water panels, solar water purification, solar water pumping, solar gray water systems, solar powered composting toilets, solar powered cooling, ventilation, and solar powered communication. It includes a climate controlled structure, the Enertopia Multi-Purpose Utility Structure (EMPUS), a patented product by Global Solar Water Power Systems. Phase One includes solar electricity, wiring/rewiring, and water. Funding permitting, Phases Two and Three will consist of hot water, sanitation and communication.

The life of a rural underprivileged elder is in a constant state of survival. Rural residents must haul water and wood on rough dirt roads at least twice a week. Their only light source is usually a kerosene lamp. Life is much harder for those without indoor plumbing and a means to get to water, wood, medical services, and the lack of refrigeration for foods and medicines.

"We took all of these challenges into consideration in designing the EMPUS building and our project approach", said Elsa Johnson, Director, IINA Solutions. "Another disparity I felt important was to help address the 50 percent unemployment on Navajo Nation, therefore we will cross-train laborers to wire, rewire, and plumb homes, and install systems so we can grow our own green collar trained workforce".

Project partner and international solar expert, Mark Snyder, tapped several leading solar manufacturers to design the solar system to last 30 years plus withstand the severe elements of the Colorado Plateau.

"I thank IINA Solutions and Leupp Chapter for giving me the opportunity to serve and improve the lives of the Navajo elders and people. I am also very happy to share my 37 years of experience to create green jobs and to train skilled Navajo solar installers in PV, solar thermal, clean water, electrical, plumbing, maintenance, and high efficiency housing", said Mark Snyder, owner of Mark Snyder Electric and President of Global Solar Water Power Systems, Inc.

The project technology partners include Day4, Zomeworks, Sun Pumps, MidNight Solar, Solar Roofs, P2000, and Interline Corporation. The Tuba City High School carpentry class is including Plateau Solar Project in its school curriculum. Global Solar Water Power Systems granted the high school a limited license to build the EMPUS buildings under a CET Grant. And, Utah Bureau of Reclamation donated several much needed field equipment. The funding agencies for Plateau Solar Project are USDA Rural Development and Renewal Energy Investment Funds (REIF) administered by Grand Canyon Trust.

The mission of Plateau Solar Project is to continue its outreach within the aging population in rural areas of the Navajo and Hopi reservations and acquire funds for several hundred more systems after it completes the first 35 installations. Any entity or organization wishing to sponsor an elder or donate to this humanitarian project can contact IINA Solutions at Donations to IINA Solutions are tax deductible.

IINA Solutions is a non-profit humanitarian organization established to help improve the quality of life (iina) for rural Navajos challenged by lack of basic human needs, and to bring commerce and green jobs training to Dine' bekeyah (Navajo land) through sustainable and holistic solutions.

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