‘Light Up Navajo’ initiative aims to connect 300 families to the power grid

Shondiin Goldsmith

Arizona Mirror

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) is working with utility crews across the United States to extend power lines and bring electricity to families across the Navajo Nation as part of the Light Up Navajo III initiative.

Light Up Navajo III (LUN III) is a mutual aid project that extends service to Navajo homes without power, and local Navajo utility crews work alongside other utility companies.

About 15,000 families in the Navajo Nation live without power, according to the NTUA.

“The Light Up Navajo Project will help change that for families across the region,” NTUA said on its website. The project was launched in 2019 and due to its overwhelming success, it is now in its third year of operation.

The LUN III initiative kicked off this month and will last 11 weeks to connect 300 homes to the power grid for the first time.

The NTUA and the American Public Power Association (APPA) are organizing LUN III and bringing in workers from utility companies and organizations in 10 states, including Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, California, Connecticut , North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Washington, DC

There will be up to four crews working each week at different locations across the Navajo Nation, according to the NTUA.

Navajo Nation Chairman Jonathan Nez praised the work the NTUA and other utility companies are doing for Navajo Nation families.

“The Light Up Navajo initiative has proven to be a success and contributes to the long term vision and sustainability of our nation – it is about building a nation so that our future generations will have strong and thriving communities on which to rely on for the future,” Nez said in a written statement.

“Working together is the way things are done and the NTUA and the American Public Power Association have demonstrated this through the successful electrification of hundreds of homes for Navajo families through Light Up Navajo,” Nez added.

Salt River Project line workers have been part of the initiative and have been working in the Navajo Nation alongside the NTUA in northeastern Arizona since early April.

Electrifying a household is an expensive undertaking because each household on average requires one transformer, 0.6 miles of wire, nine poles, 16 insulators and two lightning arresters to connect to the power grid, according to SRP. The average cost is around $5,500.

“SRP has always had a strong relationship with the Navajo Nation. Anything we can do to help, we certainly will, and that was fine with us,” said Distribution Grid Services SRP Senior Manager Wayne Wisdom in a press release. “The Navajo people are so resilient, kind, genuine and humble. They really appreciate what they have.

Since the crew has been on the Navajo Nation, they have helped 20 families connect to power, according to SRP officials.

“A family came to us after we finished and said, ‘We’ve been waiting 30 years for electricity.’ It was emotional,” SRP line worker Mark Henle said in a press release. “They said, ‘It took 30 years and our parents died waiting for this process to be completed.’ We are just happy to help.

“Giving someone electricity for the first time, seeing their face when we walk into their house and they flip that switch and they don’t have to go outside to put gas in a generator or changing the batteries in your flashlights, it’s amazing to see,” added Marc Sienicki, SRP line foreman.

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