Public Power Utilities Make Progress In Connecting Navajo Nation Families To Grid

May 14, 2022

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
May 14, 2022

Public power utility crews are making significant progress in their efforts to extend electricity to Navajo homes through Light Up Navajo III (LUN III), a joint effort between the American Public Power Association (APPA) and the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA).

The LUN III initiative began on April 3, 2022 and will last for 11 weeks.

NTUA will be welcoming workers from public power utilities and organizations from 11 states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, California, Connecticut, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Washington, Texas, and Utah.

One of the public power utilities participating in LUN III is Arizona public power utility Salt River Project (SRP).

SRP on May 11 reported that its linemen have successfully connected more than 50 Navajo families to electric service despite rough terrain, high winds, snow and mud in unfamiliar land. In all, 56 families on Arizona’s Navajo Nation now have electricity powering their homes for the very first time, SRP reported.

The SRP linemen took four weeks of up to 16-hour workdays during their phase of the project.

“The first home we connected was the most touching for me. It was a mom who was living in a trailer with her children, and they had no power or running water. They had gotten sick with COVID-19 and had to quarantine at home. They were excited (to get power) and telling us how tough it had been the last few months,” said Art Peralta, SRP construction crew foreman, who resides in Mesa. “It’s very rewarding. I’ve never done anything like this, and it means a lot. It’s life changing and brings more meaning to our job.”

The SRP line crews returned home on May 8 after working on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona since April 2.

During SRP’s participation in the month-long humanitarian effort, line crews constructed about 12 miles of distribution lines. SRP crews also set 193 poles, strung 13 miles of overhead wire and worked 4,500 hours of donated man-hours. It marks the second time SRP line workers, based out of the Tempe Service Center, volunteered to participate in Light Up Navajo.

A total of 17 SRP employees participated in the project and SRP donated employee time, line trucks, digging equipment and a mechanic service truck.

“Light Up Navajo III is an initiative to bring power to all the residents on Navajo Nation. There are about 14,000 homes on the Navajo Nation that currently do not have electric service. The vision back in 2019 was to solicit neighboring utility support primarily from public power utilities like SRP to help build the infrastructure to serve the community,” said Wayne Wisdom, the senior director of Distribution Grid Services at SRP. “For generations, these families have been living on their own with the use of generators, kerosene lamps, or whatever they have.”

“There was a mother, daughter and her two kids in Tuba City and they were really excited to have power. The kids were excited to be able to entertain themselves without having to turn on a generator and to watch TV. It was nice to get to see that and use our skills to help out,” said Austin D’addabo, SRP trades helper.

“It’s given me a different outlook on the work we do,” added Peralta. “Sometimes we take it for granted because we do it every single day. But (on the Navajo Nation) it’s not normal for them. They get really excited and are very grateful to get power.”

Along with SRP, the following public power utilities participating in LUN III are:

  • Conway Corporation, AR
  • Norwich, CT
  • SMUD, CA
  • Santa Clara, UT
  • City of Westerville, OH
  • DEMEC, DE
  • Austin Energy, TX
  • Bountiful City, UT
  • Greenville, NC

Two investor-owned utilities are also participating in LUN III: Arizona Public Service and New Mexico’s PNM Resources.

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