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Navajo families get power

By Rosalie Rayburn
Journal Staff Writer
    A partnership between a Native American-owned solar equipment manufacturer and two Navajo Nation chapter houses is bringing electricity for the first time to 50 remote homes on the reservation between Cuba and Crownpoint.
    Albuquerque-based Sacred Power Inc. is working with the Torreón and Ojo Encino Chapter Houses selecting homes to receive hybrid generating units that use solar and wind power, through an $825,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    Odes Armijo-Caster, co-principal of Sacred Power, estimates that 10,000 homes on the Navajo reservation still have no electricity because of the high cost of supplying power to remote areas.
    Sacred Power is planning to apply for additional federal funding to enable it to provide solar power to more Navajo homes in New Mexico and Arizona, said Sacred Power co-principal Dave Melton, who is from Laguna Pueblo.
    He said the company installed the first three units in mid-December and hopes to have all 50 in place by the end of April.
    Each unit consists of an 8-by-10-foot photovoltaic panel that generates electricity from the sun's rays and a 10-foot-tall wind turbine that provides additional electricity when there is no sunshine.
    The units will generate enough electricity to run lights, an energy-efficient refrigerator and a small electric appliance.
    "You're talking about improving people's lives," said Michael Peacock, CEO of Southwest Business Development Consultants, who helped Sacred Power get the grant.
    For Tina Hicks, who lives with her two children, her mother and two aunts near Ojo Encino, electricity will make life easier in many ways.
    Her mother and aunts will have enough light to weave rugs in the evenings to supplement their income. The family's kerosene lamps were just not bright enough.
    "For me, the kids can do their homework," Hicks said.
    The new refrigerator will mean not having to drive 30 miles to buy ice in Cuba this summer to keep food fresh.
    Sacred Power, as part of the project, is providing each customer with a superinsulated SunDanzer refrigerator, lighting and instructions on how to use and maintain the system.
    Sacred Power assembles the power units from products made by New Mexico-based companies that specialize in renewable energy, including Matrix Solar Technologies, Zomeworks and Array Technologies, Armijo-Caster said.
    Sacred Power provides renewable energy systems to government, business and residential customers.
    Other projects include hybrid solar and wind power energy systems for Laguna Pueblo and a solar system in Albuquerque's Indian Pueblo Cultural Center parking lot.
    Sacred Power was founded in 2001 and had revenue of $1.3 million in 2004.