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Navajo Nation: Native American Photovoltaics - 1999 Project

Project Overview
Tribe/Awardee: Navajo Nation/Native American Photovoltaics
Location: , AZ
Project Title: Electrification of Remote Native American Residences
Type of Application: Deployment
DOE Grant Number: DE-FC36-99GO10473
Project Amounts:
DOE: $210,000
Awardee: $171,000
Total: $381,000
Project Status: Complete  More
Project Period
of Performance:
Start: August 1999
End: August 2002


At the end of the twentieth century there are many tens of thousands of Native American residences in the US without electricity. Most of these residences are in remote locations and to provide service by the grid is either too costly or impossible. Photovoltaics are the best way to provide power to these houses, provided certain barriers can be overcome. These include: system cost and end-user financing, maintenance, and size and quality of the systems.

Native American Photovoltaics (NAPV), a not-for-profit company, is organizing a multiphase activity to address the electrification of remote Native American homes using photovoltaics. NAPV's program will address the barriers described above by:

  • Providing the lowest cost complete systems possible, with a goal of $5/W installed cost after three years.

  • Financing the systems so that a reasonable monthly payment covers system installation and service costs.

  • Including routine maintenance and battery replacement at no additional charge.

  • Providing AC systems in 1kW units, large enough at a minimum to power lighting, refrigeration and convenience power to conventional appliances over conventional house wiring.

The goals of Native American Photovoltaics (NAPV) are as follows:

  • To bring the benefits of electricity to the largest group of Americans without it. There are between 10,000 to 25,000 homes without power on the Navajo reservation. The lack of power affects health, education and the social fabric.

  • To create economic development in the Navajo Nation and beyond. Unemployment is over 75% in many parts of the reservation and installing, servicing, and manufacturing photovoltaics is a labor-intensive process.

  • To improve the environment. The Navajo reservation exports energy via coal-fired power plants and uranium mining. Power lines crisscross one of the most striking landscapes in the world.

NAPV will establish local facilities to assemble, install, and service PV systems. These facilities will include training of staff, and education and marketing for local customers. As the program grows, additional centers will be established to serve local markets of approximately 1,000 residences. Ultimately, a PV module manufacturing facility is planned to be integrated into the operation to provide the lowest cost possible components and to provide the maximum local economic development. In addition to local applications, products and systems will be sold into the open market.

By providing local service and maintenance, a major shortcoming of existing remote PV systems, will be eliminated. Funding by the program participants and DOE will reduce the payments by customers so that monthly costs will be less than the costs of other kinds of remote electricity.

Project Description

The photograph show three systems installed at the residences on the Navajo Reservation (Photos courtesy of Native American Photovoltaics).

Under the Electrification of Remote Native American Residences project, Native American Photovoltaics (NAPV), a joint venture between the Dilkon and Teesto Chapters of the Navajo Nation and Energy Photovoltaics, will install 1-2 kW photovoltaics systems for 20 Navajo families.

Under the project, Native American Photovoltaics, Incorporated (NAPV) will install systems on an initial group of 20 homes. These will be in 1 kW or 2 kW units, which will be assembled, installed and serviced by the first NAPV Systems Group, located in Dilkon and Teesto Chapters. By providing local service and maintenance, a major shortcoming of existing remote PV systems—many of which do not function after a year or two will be eliminated. Funding by the program participants and DOE will reduce the payments by customers so that monthly cost will be less than the costs of other kinds of remote electricity. In this phase, system features and installation methods will be optimized. Installation crews will be trained, and community education and outreach events will be organized.

Beyond the current project, NAPV plans to initiate a Phase 2. Phase 2 would last over 10 years to install 50,000 total remote residential systems. For year 2, a total of $3.5 million in grants will need to be raised from foundations, governmental sources and others, and a $4 million line of credit will need to be arranged with a suitable lending institution (HUD Rural Bank, etc.). In Phase 2, installed system costs will be reduced from approximately $7.50/W (year 2), to $5.00/W (year 5). Further cost reductions in years 6-10 will allow larger, even lower cost systems to be installed, with a terminal system cost under $4.00/W.

Many other PV applications, such as water pumping and remote lighting, also exist on Native American lands, and these will be an important second market.

If the cost and sales goals of phase 1 and 2 are achieved, during the first year of Phase 2, the NAPV manufacturing venture will be organized. The venture will have 5 MW of manufacturing capacity per year.

The manufacturing venture will transfer modules to the systems groups at the lowest possible price, with very low costs for distribution, marketing and transportation.

Beyond electrification, benefits to Native Americans include job creation and development, particularly among the resettled Navajo of the US-Navajo-Hopi land dispute, where economic standards are amongst the lowest in the Navajo Nation.

It is expected that the venture will be successful in selling to the open market. With a proven technology that is significantly less expensive than any available today, modules, systems and products should be very competitive.

This project offers a unique combination of economic, social and technological benefits. By bringing the most advanced technology to Native American lands, a new level of cost-effective PV and PV systems will be introduced and fielded. The ultimate leverage of this phase 1 venture will be very high.

Project Location

Dilkon and Teesto are adjacent Chapters in the south-central part of the Navajo Reservation. Dilkon and Teesto are in a strategic location, between Window Rock (the Navajo capital) and Flagstaff, south of the Hopi reservation and north of Winslow, Arizona. A large number of the non-electrified population of the Navajo and Hopi reservations is within a reasonable distance. The disputed area between the Navajo and Hopi reservations, the Navajo-Hopi partitioned lands, is highly undeveloped and contains many displaced families with no access to electricity.

Project Status

Native American Photovoltaics (NAPV) has been installing systems in Dilkon-Teesto, Arizona, on the Navajo reservation, since early 2000. Since, early 2000, NAPV has installed 20 1.2-kilowatt stand-alone residential power systems and have constructed a 4 KW solar classroom for the Seba Dalkai School near Teesto, north of Dilkon, Arizona. For more information, see the final report (PDF 8.08 MB) Download Adobe Reader.

For current project status or additional information, contact one of the project contacts.

Project Contact

Gregory Kiss, President
Native American Photovoltaics
44 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Telephone: (718) 237-2025
Fax: (718) 237-2025

David Silversmith, Project Manager
Native American Photovoltaics
Box 7242 Teesto
CPU Winslow, AZ 86047
Telephone: (520) 657-3520
Fax: (520) 657-3224