Debby Tewa spent her first 10 years living without electricity, water, or a telephone in a three-room stone house in an isolated area of the Hopi Reservation in Arizona.
Today, as a contractor to the Sandia National Laboratories Sandia Tribal Energy Program, she provides technical advice about maintaining photovoltaic (PV) units to people on Indian reservations who live remotely like she did. For many, it’s the first time they’ve had electricity in their homes.
“I can identify with the people I’m helping,” Tewa says. “Many live the way I grew up, and I fully appreciate their excitement in having electricity and light at night.”
As part of Tewa’s job, she and program director
Sandra Begay-Campbell offer technical advice to tribal governments, which receive Department of Energy (DOE) tribal energy grants. Her work also includes teaching Native Americans how to use and maintain photovoltaic units, supporting project management plans, and helping people learn from each other about their photovoltaic systems. In addition, she is enhancing DOE’s PV Reliability database with off-grid system information that includes Navajo PV systems maintenance data.This would be the same Navajo nation that has banned uranium mining on their reservation. They think solar is cleaner.
Tewa and Begay-Campbell work closely with the Navajo Nation with which Sandia signed a memorandum of understanding in 2000 to encourage further collaboration. The Navajo Utility Authority, through DOE funding, has installed photovoltaic units at more than 300 homes on the reservation since 1993.