(Photo: Kate Ausburn, Flickr)

Cameron residents will soon enjoy the benefits of renewable energy. A Navajo-owned energy company recently purchased 100 acres of land in Cameron, Ariz. for a microgrid system and housing development. This is part of a larger plan for the company to bring renewable electricity options to more remote parts of the reservation.

Dory Peters, CEO of Big Navajo Energy, explained that the purchase was completed in mid-February with support from the Cameron chapter and members of the legislature in order to increase the number of self-sustaining communities on the Navajo Nation. The company uses a combination of solar, wind, and other natural resources to create microgrids, a small energy system that is not connected to and does not rely on larger utility networks.

This was inspired by similar technologies being used by a Marine base at Camp Pendleton in southern California. The microgrid system at the base relies on alternative energy and moves away from battery-based backup systems to flywheel energy storage, a less expensive and more reliable alternative.

“The idea is to take the same technology the military created for a microgrid system at Camp Pendleton and to implement that on Navajo land, particularly in areas that don’t have electricity,” said Peters. “This is the first of many steps to come. The biggest part was to get the land.”

Peters said the plan includes “putting up housing that is highly efficient, self-sustaining, and green” which would be powered by the microgrid. The company is currently in talks with the Navajo Housing Authority to plan such a community.

Peters also said that one of the primary benefits of this project is how it will empower the local community. The project will create manufacturing and maintenance jobs for residents, plus utility costs are expected to be slightly lower than what many residents are currently paying. The money paid would return to the community instead of an energy company when ownership of the microgrid is transferred to the Cameron chapter, Peters said.

The company expects to break ground on the project towards the end of the year.

“It’s exciting and it’s something that I think is very positive for the community,” Peters said.