Navajo Nation President Helps Hopi Partitioned Lands Residents Welcome Solar Power Units

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, left, and Dory Peters, president of Big Navajo Energy, survey the new solar power unit installed at a home on the Hopi Partitioned Lands on Thursday.

Published August 12, 2018

WHIPPOORWILL, Ariz.—How do you bring power to Navajo families living on Hopi Partitioned Land?

“One home at a time,” Dory Peters, president of Big Navajo Energy, told President Russell Begaye on Thursday.

President Begaye was touring the first four homes to receive power on Hopi Partition Land under a $253,044 contract he signed with Big Navajo Energy on Aug. 7 to deliver solar power units to 44 homes impacted by the Navajo-Hopi land dispute. Big Navajo Energy, a 100-percent Navajo-owned company partnered with Humless, a manufacturer of solar generator systems, to install 1,500- to 15,000-watt solar power systems to homes that are off the grid on the eastern side of Hopi Partitioned Land.

Dory Peters, president of Big Navajo Energy, demonstrates how a solar power management system works from the inside of a home Thursday.

“Some of our people have been waiting for 30 or 60 years for power,” said Peters, who is Navajo. “Some of them have been waiting their whole lives for the power to come on. We’ll just focus on one home at a time.”

Thursday’s tour marked the successful installation of solar power units in four homes. Residents gathered with Big Navajo Energy and Humless representatives and celebrated by turning on their lights for the first time.

“It’s humbling to meet these residents and see how they live,” President Begaye said. “They live here because their mothers and grandmothers lived here, because their teachings are here. Now, with the help of Big Navajo Energy, they can live in their homes and have the conveniences they need and deserve.”

The homes, fully wired and equipped with light fixtures and bulbs, have lacked the power for appliances like refrigerators. Residents have hauled ice and relied on plastic coolers to store perishable food.

Big Navajo Energy began looking for alternative power solutions about five years ago, Peters said. Big Navajo Energy also worked with the Navajo Hopi Land Commission Office to identify Navajo families living on Hopi Partitioned Lands in need of alternative energy solutions. Because every home presents a different challenge, Big Navajo Energy looks for the best possible fit for each location while providing the latest in renewable technology resources.

The new solar units upgrade or replace antiquated systems for some residents. For others, the project means access to power for the first time. The solar units, designed to last up to 10 years, deliver enough power for residents to hook up full-sized refrigerators, big-screen televisions or even septic systems.

“When you see their faces when the lights come on, you understand how big of a deal electricity really is,” said Dory Peters, president of Big Navajo Energy. “It’s giving them a new look at life. They’re able to use the amenities that many of us take for granted. Some of these people have waited decades for power, and with the help of Humless, we were able to hook this up in one day.”

Lillie Ashley and her siblings are third-generation residents of the area. Thursday marked the first time in family history that Ashley’s home was fully powered, and she’s looking forward to buying her first refrigerator and exploring a solar-powered septic system.

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