UN Lighting Effort Focuses Solar On Navajos

The United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All initiative sounds like a great program to bring access to modern, clean energy to the developing world. But don’t assume it’s just remote Africa or Asia where the needs exist; as the UN initiative was launched, Nokero and the nonprofit Eagle Energy, both based in Denver, vowed to improve the energy situation for 18,000 families living without electricity on the Navajo Nation.

Yep, right here in the United States of America.

solar lighting for Navajo Nation, Eagle Energy

image via Eagle Energy

Nokero, a maker of solar lights and chargers, said the goal was “to build sustainable distribution systems which ensure that all people of the Navajo Nation have access to affordable, durable, high-quality solar-powered lights, mobile chargers and other green technologies.” You might remember our earlier story about the company’s solar-power charging panels that it said it designed to remain affordable and viable to users who live in off-grid, often impoverished regions of the world.

Eagle Energy is the Navajo-focused project that sprang out of Elephant Energy, which was focused on bringing power to people in need in Namibia. Nokero credits Eagle/Elephant founder and head man Doug Vilsack with connecting with Navajo leaders who advocate for better access to renewable energy and with bringing innovative technologies to the Navajo Nation. (Vilsack, by the way, is the son of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as noted in this Colorado Independent story that tipped us to the Navajo project.)

According to Eagle Energy, “about 38 percent of households in the Navajo Nation lack electricity, and over 50 percent of Navajo live below the poverty line.” The organization said the remoteness of the Navajo Nation – and it’s abundance of sunlight – “makes it ideal for the solar technologies that Eagle Energy provides.” The organization’s focus is on bringing lighting to people, and doing it in a way that helps grow businesses on the Navajo Nation, as Vilsack explains in the video below.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.