Smart Communities Network banner

WelcomeContactSite IndexNewsletterEspanol

Green Buildings

Building Principles

Building Programs

Rating Systems

US Building Efforts

Affordable Housing

Success Stories

Codes / Ordinances

Articles / Publications

Educational Materials

Other Resources

Success Stories

Renew America Success Stories

Native SUN Hopi Solar Electric Enterprise

Debby Tewa
The Hopi Foundation
P.O. Box 705
Hotevilla, AZ 86030
tel: (520) 734-2380
fax: (520) 734-9520
No Internet Link Currently Available



The Native SUN Hopi Solar Electric Enterprise (SEE) was developed to provide clean, solar energy to the thousands of families living on isolated American Indian reservations.

Nearly 50% of Hopi and Navajo Indians have homes without electricity. These families generally rely on kerosene and propane gas lamps for their basic lighting needs.  While they would like to have improved lighting for home functions, their children's homework and to reduce the hazards associated with the lighting of flammable kerosene and gas lamps, tribal leaders have been reluctant to tap into public utility hookups (where available). Hopi leaders have expressed concern that their people may one day be unable to afford the high cost of electrical power provided by public utility companies, and they do not want their people to become dependent on others for meeting their basic needs.

The SEE program helps provide clean, solar power to these families at a reasonable cost. Program participants receive loans to purchase and install a photovoltaic array and series of batteries that capture and store energy. Through a revolving loan program, Native Americans can apply for low-interest loans at a rate of 8% in order to obtain electricity for their homes and families.

This initiative is locally-directed and provides a method for Hopi and other American Indian societies to move toward greater self-sufficiency. In addition to the energy provided through the program, administration of the program has helped create employment opportunities on the reservations. With an estimated 50% - 70% of Hopi adults are unemployed, local employment opportunities are extraordinarily valuable to the Native American population.

The project demonstrates how environmentally-friendly, sustainable energy production can help improve the lives of Native Americans and help them move toward greater self-sufficiency.

Program Highlights

  • The SEE enables Hopi and Navajo families to purchase and install solar photovoltaic cells to provide energy for basic electrical needs.
  • The panels collect energy, which is then stored in batteries. When batteries are no longer efficient enough to retain a substantial charge, they are given to other families to power refrigerators.
  • The SEE revolving loan fund has a $7,000 loan limit with a maximum of 48 months for repayment at 8% interest.
  • The Native American has long been the original environmentalist. Through the use of solar electricity, the Hopi and Navajo can continue to live in harmony with Mother Earth.

Vital Statistics

*Program Management/Partnerships: SEE has been funded by the Arizona Community Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

*Budget: In review.

*Community Served: The Native American population residing on the Hopi and Navajo reservations. These populations of 12,500 and 250,000 people, respectively, are disproportionately poor and nearly 50% of the homes on these reservations do not have electricity.

*Measures of Success:

  • The Hopi Solar Electric Enterprise installed 125 photovoltaic systems on the Hopi and Navajo Indian reservations over a two-year period.
  • Forty-two families have received loans from the SEE through the revolving loan fund and have installed their own solar cells to supply their home energy needs.
  • SEE has trained people in Ecuador interested in replicating the program there.
  •  Published: May 1997

    Success stories designed by Mark W. Nowak

    Back to Top