Fort Lewis College students bring solar energy to Navajo Nation
Panels installed at community gathering place
By Jonathan Romeo Herald staff writer
Sunday, March 25, 2018 5:03 AM
Some college students head to Cancun for spring break to experience the raucous atmosphere of one of Mexico’s most popular party destinations.
Others volunteer to bring solar energy to needy communities on the Navajo Nation.
Earlier this month, 11 Fort Lewis College students installed 32 solar panels on the Ojo Encino Chapter House, the main community-gathering place for the chapter, about two hours south of Durango off U.S. Highway 550.
“It was a very meaningful trip, bringing together sociology and engineering students in a way to benefit regional needs,” said Rebecca Clausen, professor of sociology.
The idea for the project began last fall when Tim Willink, tribal programs manager for GRID Alternatives, gave a speech at FLC about the company’s goals to bring solar to Native American communities in need.
Willink said earlier this week the company’s National Tribal Solar Program has helped more than 40 communities receive solar energy while at the same time provide tribal members and students with real-life experience.
“In general, the vast majority of tribes out there are looking to solar as a potential strategy for energy development,” he said. “They are excited about the opportunity to learn how it works and how to develop energy plans.”
Willink went to the Ojo Encino to build a relationship, wanting to make sure the project had buy-in from the community.
Ojo Encino is a small “chapter,” which is similar to a township, with a dispersed population of about 700 people in the southeastern corner of the Navajo Nation, about 25 miles west of Cuba, New Mexico....
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