Navajo women restore power to off-grid system


February 01, 2018

Sixteen years ago, the Yazzie family of the Cameron Chapter on the Navajo Nation in Northeastern Arizona received an off-grid solar photovoltaic system. As with many families within the Navajo Nation, complex land issues on the reservation make it challenging to receive electricity from the local utility, so their off-grid system served as a necessity for basic electrical needs, such as lighting and refrigeration. But when the batteries on the system reached their intended lifespan, the electricity in 92-year old Grace Yazzie’s home ceased to function whenever the sun wasn’t shining.

For three days in early December 2017, GRID Alternatives led a small group of Native American women through the process of refurbishing the Yazzie family’s solar system. The project was completed through GRID’s Women in Solar program, which provides opportunities for women to gain solar installation skills, develop their leadership potential, and access solar jobs. GRID invited Native solar pioneer, Debby Tewa, to provide support and mentorship during the refurbishment project.  

“We learned a lot hands on. [Solar] is something we would sure love to get into,” said Albertina and Violet, who also own a small off-grid system.

GRID also held a half-day classroom training and orientation at the Cameron Chapter House to prepare participants for the hands-on refurbishment. These trainings and opportunities are invaluable for communities like Cameron that have several battery-based solar PV systems and few community-based experts.

Melodi, a chapter resident, was particularly interested in learning about the system because her family has a similar one. After working with GRID on the first day, she went home to inspect her own system and even taught her sister what she learned about the different components.

It was a productive and educational week for all involved, but perhaps the most rewarding part of the week was driving away on the last day. The sun had set for the day, but from the road you could see Grace’s light shining inside her home.