Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sat, Aug. 08

Grand Canyon Trust announces $500,000 grant to Cameron Chapter for residential photovoltaic systems
Money will be used to bring reliable electrical source to community

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - The Grand Canyon Trust is pleased to announce that Cameron Chapter has been awarded a $500,000 grant for residential photovoltaic systems from the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF). The grant will be used to help bring reliable residential electricity to families living in remote locations away from power lines. The Chapter is partnering with another Chapter's venture, Shaa'tohi (Shonto) Energy Solutions, to address the energy need.

"We are excited to bring electrical power to the residents of Cameron Chapter," said Dorothy Scott, vice-president of Cameron Chapter. "This grant will help to fulfill a much needed service and will ultimately help to improve the quality of life for our people living within the Cameron area."

The Cameron Chapter is one of 110 local governmental subdivisions of the Navajo Nation, and is located in the southwest corner of the Navajo Reservation, approximately 26 miles south of Tuba City, Ariz. Within the Navajo Nation government, the local Chapters are authorized to address the needs of their communities and constituents. A priority of the local leadership is to bring electric power to many of its residents that are living across remote areas and don't have the option to tie into a utility-grid power.

"We know the needs and challenges in our communities and are exploring other ways we can bring services and resources to our residents," said Scott. "This is one of many ongoing initiatives."

REIF was created in a 2005 settlement agreement between Grand Canyon Trust and the owners of Springerville Generating Station. The Trust administers the fund under guidelines established by a five-person steering committee with representatives from Tempe-based Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and the Grand Canyon Trust. The large grant to Cameron will be one of the final awards to be made from the nearly depleted $5 million fund.

"The Cameron Chapter submitted a strong, well-planned proposal that will begin to address electrical power needs of their community, attract matching grants, and provide jobs and revenues for Navajo-owned businesses," said Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Program Director for the Grand Canyon Trust. "We are pleased to help create new economic opportunities."

The project is also supported by additional revenue, including $84,000 committed by the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, plus an additional $6,000 from the Chapter.

"We are thrilled to be building on our existing partnerships with local chapters, especially between two Chapters we have long had relations with, both the Cameron Chapter and Shonto Chapter," said Tony Skrelunas, Native America Program Director for the Grand Canyon Trust. The Grand Canyon Trust has worked extensively over the years to help Shonto Chapter create a strong, well-established company to meet the needs of Northern Arizona.

Much of the Cameron area has been affected by the Bennett Freeze Act, federal legislation which halted development of tribal land for 40 years while a border dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes was negotiated. When the Bennett Freeze Act was finally lifted in 2009, it was estimated that 60 percent of the residents affected by it were without electricity, and many of these residences fall within the Cameron Chapter.

"The area has long been limited by the freeze on development and we are excited to address this serious need. The Navajo communities deserve a reliable and robust energy source and Shonto has created a product that incorporates maintenance. Thus, we are addressing needs of families, community, and economy all at the same time. Fortunately, we are also building the expertise on Navajo land which will serve our people for a long time," said Skrelunas.

The photovoltaic systems will be installed and maintained by Shaa'tohi (Shonto) Energy Solutions, a company under the Shonto Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Inc. The company, which is Navajo owned and based on the Navajo Nation, is experienced in designing highly dependable power systems for off-grid applications in remote environments and harsh climates. The company uses quality components in their design, and trains home owners about the system to ensure it will provide years of service.

"Our design is dependable, practical, and made for the region," said Brett Isaac, project manager of the SEDC. "Our company specializes in placing energy systems on the Navajo Nation and we look forward to working with Cameron Chapter and building our customer base across the Nation."

The project will also allow residents, who will be selected through an application process, to learn the intricacies of the systems and how to install and maintain them. This training will ensure availability of a local response to issues that may arise with the power systems.

The Trust also recently announced a $200,000 grant for a solar system to be installed at the Tsaile Campus of Dine College. Earlier this year, REIF awarded $1.3 million in grants to projects in partnership with Tolani Lake Chapter, an elderly care center at Hopi, and schools serving five western Navajo communities. More than $1.5 million in grants have previously been presented to residents in Leupp, Bird Springs, Coal Mine Mesa, Hotevilla, Mishongovi, as well as, Saint Michaels Indian School, Northeast Arizona Technological Institute of Vocational Education in Kayenta, and the Shiprock campus of Dine College.

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