Bringing Lights to Navajo Homes

According to the 2000 census, 42.9 percent of residents of the Navajo Nation live below the poverty level, meaning they had an income of less than $8,350 per year.

This proportion of impoverished people is more than four times the average poverty level in the United States. In addition, 21.4 percent of Navajo families lack plumbing, and 62.6 percent lack basic telephone service.

Three quarters of all people living without electricity in the United States reside on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the Four Corners region. It is conservatively estimated that around 18,000 of the 48,000 households on the Navajo Nation lack electricity.

These families use kerosene, propane, and firewood for light and heat. Navajo families spend $20-$40 per month on candles.

Despite being located in the United States, the Navajo Nation suffers from extreme poverty.

According to the 2000 census, 42.9 percent of residents of the Navajo Nation live below the poverty level, meaning they had an income of less than $8,350 per year.

This proportion of impoverished people is more than four times the average poverty level in the United States. In addition, 21.4 percent of Navajo families lack plumbing, and 62.6 percent lack basic telephone service.

The cost of extending power lines through the rugged terrain of the Navajo Nation is extremely high. The average cost to extend a line a single mile is about $27,000 and this cost often cannot be split because a line extension may only reach a few new customers.

Many elderly Navajo have lived their entire lives without electricity, despite promises from the Tribal Government and NTUA. As a result, many people have lost hope that they will ever be provided electricity.

One woman interviewed by Eagle Energy volunteers said that the government promised that electricity would arrive by Christmas over 15 years ago and it had still not arrived. Despite a clear wish for electrification, many Navajo communities have no choice but to burn kerosene and wait.

At a cost of $25 to $35, Eagle Energy’s lights are not much more expensive than a kerosene lantern, and incur no additional monthly cost after purchase. Furthermore, solar technologies provide health benefits by reducing indoor air pollution and help to protect the environment by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions when compared with kerosene use.

Economic Benefits

Cost is also an issue for families that currently have access to grid electricity. With the high poverty levels that exist on the Navajo Nation, many who have access to grid-tied electricity cannot afford their monthly bills.

Many Navajo families interviewed by Eagle Energy volunteers expressed an interest in solar-powered lighting technologies as a way to lower their monthly electricity bills.

Eagle Energy’s solar-powered lights provide a distinct economic advantage compared to kerosene and propane-fueled lanterns because they do not require users to buy multiple replacement fuel canisters per month. Although solar-powered lights come with rechargeable batteries that must be replaced after one or two years, the $5 cost is negligible compared to replacement fuel canisters.

Health Benefits

Solar Lanterns also provide a health benefit over the kerosene lanterns commonly used by the Navajo Nation. Although the health impacts caused by using fuel lighting is an understudied field, a recent article in the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health attempted to quantify the risk.

The authors found that vendors using simple kerosene lanterns where exposed to particulate matter concentrations significantly greater than the amount present in the ambient air. Such exposure can present long-term health risks. The article concluded that the best solution to combat this problem is the use of solar LED lighting.

Educational and Productivity Benefits

Candles and kerosene lanterns provide a low-quality light source, making it difficult for children to read and do homework, while Eagle Energy’s solar technologies provide high-quality light.

Providing children with access to sustainable energy technologies is also important, as children will be responsible for making sustainable energy choices in the future. Solar lighting technologies can also provide a benefit to people without electricity who work from home, allowing them to work after dark at a lower cost compared to kerosene lanterns.

CO2 Emission Benefits

Kerosene lanterns also produce CO2 emissions, causing harm to the environment. The average kerosene lantern, when used for four hours per night, produces over 100 kilograms of CO2 emissions per year.

If we assume that each of the 18,000 households on the Navajo Nation has just one lantern and uses it for four hours per night, the net greenhouse gas emissions reduction from kerosene lanterns on the Navajo Nation would be over 1.8 million kilograms per year.

For reference, this is equal to driving over four million miles in the average car. Replacing these lanterns with solar-powered lighting technologies would eliminate these harmful emissions.

Navajo Home

Navajo Home

Elephant Energy has expanded to the Navajo Nation in the United States with the help of a small grant from the University of Colorado and our partners Dine Care.  Eagle Energy (as Elephant Energy is known on the Navajo Nation) is working to address the energy needs of rural Navajo families,

Eagle Energy, with the help of Melton Martinez and Dine Care, is currently working with four Navajo Chapters in the Eastern Agency of the Navajo Nation, including Baca Chapter, Thoreau Chapter, Pinedale Chapter, and Mariano Lake Chapter to discuss the most effective ways to finance and distribute ASETs in these rural communities.

Please visit www.elephantenergy.org and donate to help us solve this American injustice through our unique market-based model.

http://www.elephantenergy.org/Navajo_Solar.html

Source: Eagle Energy – Navajo Solar Light Project Summary & Operational Report

Comments

  1. Thanks for finally writing about >Bringing Lights to Navajo
    Homes <Loved it!

  2. My brother suggested I might like this web site.
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  3. Harold Carey Jr says:

    This link will help you:
    http://www.navajo-nsn.gov/govt.htm

  4. Rudy Yellowhair says:

    Could you shoot me in a direction where i can learn more about Navajo Nation poverty? I’m collecting research for an English assignment. Anything would help, thanks.

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