Denver companies pledge solar assistance to Navajo Nation at United Nations confab

Navajo Nation activist Melton Martinez holding a solar light bulb.

Two Denver companies announced Tuesday at the United Nations Private Sector Forum in New York City that they will team up to tackle the lack of electrical grid connectivity on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region.

Nokero International, which supplies solar-powered lights and mobile chargers, will work with Eagle Energy, a non-profit formed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s son, Doug. The two companies will work with Navajo Nation leaders to provide light in homes that often go dark when the sun sets, hopefully replacing dangerous and unhealthy kerosene lanterns and heaters.

The project was announced as the U.N. brought together numerous alternative energy experts and advocates to discuss the organization’s “International Year of Sustainable Energy For All” in 2012.

“It is a great honor for Nokero to be invited to this event,” said Steve Katsaros, founder and CEO of Nokero Internaional. “Many of the 1.4 billion people living without access to electricity live outside the United States, but we felt it was important to use this opportunity to shine a light on the challenges facing off-grid communities in our own country.

“There’s no better way for us to do that than to support the effort of Navajo Nation leaders to bring renewable energy alternatives to their community.”

Vilsack, a University of Colorado graduate, first formed Elephant Energy to address connectivity issues and try to provide alternative energy solutions in Namibia. Eagle Energy is an offshoot working on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation activists have been pushing hard for more renewable energy and greater U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of aging coal-fired power plants in the region, which have been blamed for haze over Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon National Parks, as well as respiratory problems for area residents.

According to a Nokero release on Tuesday, “beginning today, and for as long as it takes, Nokero will direct its resources toward tackling this challenge — working with Eagle Energy and Navajo partners 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.”

Tom Boyd of Nokero pointed to recent media coverage in Colorado highlighting the situation on the Navajo Nation, linking to a Colorado Independent story earlier this month.

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