08:52 AM

SRP Line Crews ‘Light Up Navajo’: Fifty-Six Families Now Have Power for the First Time and Children Can Do Homework at Night with Electricity

Editor Note:

We can coordinate an interview with a line worker from your coverage area. 
Line workers serving on the humanitarian mission reside in the following cities: 
Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Mesa, Queen Creek and Tempe. Spanish speakers available too.

It took four weeks of up to 16-hour workdays, but Salt River Project linemen successfully connected more than 50 Navajo families to electric service despite rough terrain, high winds, snow and mud in unfamiliar land. In all, 56 families on Arizona’s Navajo Nation now have electricity powering their homes for the very first time.

“The first home we connected was the most touching for me. It was a mom who was living in a trailer with her children, and they had no power or running water. They had gotten sick with COVID-19 and had to quarantine at home. They were excited (to get power) and telling us how tough it had been the last few months,” described Art Peralta, SRP construction crew foreman, who resides in Mesa. “It’s very rewarding. I’ve never done anything like this, and it means a lot. It’s life changing and brings more meaning to our job.”

The SRP line crews returned home earlier this week on May 8 after working on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona since April 2. SRP was one of 14 volunteer utilities from 10 states across the U.S. that participated in the ‘Light Up Navajo’ electrification project led by the American Public Power Association (APPA) and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to provide electricity to families who have never before had power.

“Light Up Navajo III is an initiative to bring power to all the residents on Navajo Nation. There are about 14,000 homes on the Navajo Nation that currently do not have electric service. The vision back in 2019 was to solicit neighboring utility support primarily from public power utilities like SRP to help build the infrastructure to serve the community,” said Wayne Wisdom, the senior director of Distribution Grid Services at SRP. “For generations, these families have been living on their own with the use of generators, kerosene lamps, or whatever they have.”

During SRP’s participation in the month-long humanitarian effort, line crews constructed about 12 miles of distribution lines. SRP crews also set 193 poles, strung 13 miles of overhead wire and worked 4,500 hours of donated man-hours. It marks the second time SRP line workers, based out of the Tempe Service Center, volunteered to participate in ‘Light Up Navajo.’

“There was a mother, daughter and her two kids in Tuba City and they were really excited to have power. The kids were excited to be able to entertain themselves without having to turn on a generator and to watch TV. It was nice to get to see that and use our skills to help out,” said Austin D’addabbo, SRP trades helper.”

When the project wraps during the third week in June a total of 200 Native American families will have electricity in their homes. A total of 17 SRP employees participated in the project and SRP donated employee time, line trucks, digging equipment and a mechanic service truck.

“It’s given me a different outlook on the work we do,” added Peralta. “Sometimes we take it for granted because we do it every single day. But (on the Navajo Nation) it’s not normal for them. They get really excited and are very grateful to get power.”

About Light Up Navajo
According to APPA, 300,000 people reside on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Of the 55,000 homes located there, which is roughly the size of West Virginia, approximately 14,000 homes still do not have electricity. They represent 75 percent of all U.S. households that do not have power.

The public is invited to help donate to the effort and can learn more at www.publicpower.org/donate-light-navajo. Electrifying just one household is an expensive endeavor. Each household, on average, requires one transformer, 0.6 miles of wire, nine poles, 16 insulators, and two arrestors to connect to the electric grid; which is an average material cost of around $5,500.

About APPA
The American Public Power Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. APPA represents public power before the federal government to protect the interests of the more than 49 million people that public power utilities serve, and the 93,000 people they employ. APPA advocates and advises on electricity policy, technology, trends, training and operations. The members strengthen their communities by providing superior service, engaging citizens and instilling pride in community-owned power.

About SRP

SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest electricity provider in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving approximately 1.1 million customers. SRP provides water to about half of the Valley’s residents, delivering more than 244 billion gallons of water (750,000 acre-feet) each year, and manages a 13,000-square-mile watershed that includes an extensive system of reservoirs, wells, canals and irrigation laterals.