Off the Grid in Navajo Nation
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- Jun 1, 2019 4:02 am GMT
- 511 views
A couple weeks ago, I highlighted Central Maine Power’s (CMP) plan to extend their grid into a rural part of the state, and the community’s pushback. As Bob Meinetz, this website’s most engaged and informed member, pointed out, there is plenty to dislike about CMP’s moves, but his concerns aren’t really reflected in the complaints of the disgruntled Mainers. They, above all else, are upset that their pre-industrial fantasies will be tarnished by power lines. That’s fine, of course. Afterall, people should be able to live however they want so long as their choices don't negatively affect others. However, sadly, there are still many in our country who live off the grid not by choice.
Earlier this week, NPR published an article documenting off the grid living in the Navajo Nation, America’s largest Native American reservation. According to official statistics, 10 percent of the territory’s residents live without electricity, but some experts warn that the true number may be much higher. The article follows the Billies, a family that’s been waiting for a power connection over 15 years. They mostly get by on pesky propane lanterns and flashlights but have to go to grandma’s house when bigger needs arise, like hooking up the nebulizer to alleviate the kids’ allergies.
Connecting homes like the Billies’ is complicated. Houses on the reservation are spread out, making them expensive to connect–around $40 thousand a pop. That’s a ton of for a population with an unemployment rate of 50 percent. Luckily, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the nonprofit American Public Power Association have hooked up to provide power to those places in the area without it, but they’re still a ways off.