President Biden’s Infrastructure Act is bringing electricity to areas left out for the last 90 years
To say that infrastructure funding for the Navajo Nation (and for other communities of American Indians) is insufficient is like saying that there’s not enough water in Death Valley. It’s not just falling short, it’s just barely clear of nonexistent.
When President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, one of the things it provided was the funding to finally address a wrong that’s been going on for almost 90 years — one in which the rest of rural America saw power working its way to their doors, while Native communities went without.
Just as it did for Americans across the country, and particularly the rural South, electricity reaching these homes on the Nation means improved opportunity and new possibilities. Thanks to rural electrification, millions of Americans found their home towns more viable, their own property more valuable, and their lives simply more comfortable. And with electricity replacing local coal and wood stoves, it made local conditions both cleaner and healthier.
There’s something else that came out of the Rural Electrification Act. Congress built on top of that act in the 1950s to extend phone lines into areas where the existing AT&T monopoly wasn’t interested. It used that act again in the 1990s when the government first began to provide loans and support for improving efficiency of appliances and funding for home insulation. It used that same act in the 2010s as the framework for extending broadband networks into rural areas.
What can you do in the middle of the Navajo Nation? Just about any job you can do in San Francisco or New York, if you can get electricity and broadband Internet.
In one way, this is coming 90 years too late. On the other hand, it’s never too late to do the right thing. And don’t be surprised if, just as it did in 1936, building out the network in these areas results in new technology that benefits everyone.
After all, when it comes to the Navajo power grid, the coal-fired power plant at Page, Arizona closed in 2019. Now the Navajo and Hopi nations are making a grand transition. as the Navajo-Hopi Observer reported in May.
Since the closure of the Peabody Black Mesa coal mine near the four corners region in northeast Arizona, the Navajo Nation has established a transition from coal to renewable energy sources, like solar power.
To compensate for energy production lost because of the closure of the mine, the Navajo Nation created a solar power plant located in Kayenta, Arizona.
The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority’s Kayenta Solar Project is the largest solar project on the reservation. This project was built in two phases consisting of two fields of fixed sun tracking panels known as Kayenta 1 and Kayenta 2. The Kayenta 1 field has 120k panels, while Kayenta 2 has only 100k. Both fields put out the same amount of energy, demonstrating the technological efficiency of these solar panels.
Power is finally able to reach the people it was meant to help, providing them with clean, renewable electricity; fulfilling a promise from President Biden; and addressing at least one of many wrongs.