Energizing Ojo Encino with sunshine

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November 05, 2019
Fort Lewis students stand in front of a solar system

Ojo Encino, a small community of about 600 people in the New Mexico desert, has one thing in abundance: sunshine. 

Last year, the Ojo Encino Chapter of the Navajo Nation decided to turn that sunlight into energy. Working together to achieve these renewable energy goals, GRID's tribal program partnered with the Chapter to install 15 solar systems: 13 are on tribal members' homes, one lights up the Chapter house, and one powers the EMS building. All systems use Enphase Energy inverters, donated through GRID Alternatives' long-standing equipment partnership with Enphase Energy.

“We have a lot of low-income families that cannot afford electricity, so it does really help, especially if they have to budget a certain amount each month,” says Gloria Chiquito, Ojo Encino Chapter Manager. Gloria explains how useful the solar was for an elder grandmother taking care of six kids. ”Her electricity bill used to be over $200, now it’s between $40 and $50 a month.” Now those savings can go towards other expenses. “Whatever they save, they can buy extra food for their family,” says Gloria. 

Two students adjust a beam
Navajo Technical University students gained hands-on installation experience
The savings are especially useful for Chapter House. The monthly electricity bill used to be over $200. After the nine kilowatt system was turned on, their first bill was a $10 credit and their most recent bill was only $37. These savings are staying in the tribal community. “Now we can use the extra funds helping people within the community, upgrading housing materials and weatherizing homes,” notes Gloria.

The solar powering Ojo Encino is being installed by local tribal members. Fort Lewis College students spent their Spring Break installing the system on the Ojo Encino Chapter House. The hands-on training gives youth valuable transferable skills, introduces them to new career possibilities, and invests in the future of the community. “They will be the ones to live here, so they need to learn about solar,” explains Gloria.  In fact, two trainees from Ojo Encino, Josh and Sterling, have joined the Tribal team as a SolarCorps Fellow and intern. 

The Ojo Encino community has plans to install 19 more systems. Gloria says, “It’s amazing. The amount of sun that we have here, that we can use.” 

Maybe soon, Ojo Encino will be completely powered by the sun.