Bryan Watchman

The Crownpoint Chapter House, the social and political hub of the community, now has independence from filthy coal that has polluted the land and water. Behind the chapter house, the sun’s life-giving energy is now being captured by a solar tracker.

This new technology can provide about 1,164kWh every month. It stays perpendicular to the path of the sun, and is 40 percent more efficient than solar panels that are installed on rooftops. The energy it generates is totally cost-free for the Chapter House and the two other buildings that share the property.

Unlike depending on the coal-fired power plant that emits carbon dioxide, mercury and sulfuric acid into the environment, this is an example of clean energy that will hopefully be taken up by another Chapter House somewhere on Navajo Nation or on Pueblo lands, to help get the green economy rolling.

The solar potential that the Navajo Nation has could provide power to the one third of the Navajo population that lacks electricity.

“This would also help the environment,” said Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director of New Energy Economy, an organization that advocates renewable energy. “Over a 25-year period the Chapter could, in effect, conserve approximately 139,000 gallons of water not used in the fossil fuel-based power plant’s steam turbines, and approximately 489,000 pounds of carbon pollution that would have been released into the atmosphere will be eliminated. It will also save the Crownpoint community about $115,000 in electric bills that can be used for other needs like education, housing and health care.”

New Energy Economy got grants and funding for the two solar trackers at Crownpoint, which were installed by Positive Energy, a Santa Fe solar company. On the morning of May 22, people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate.

The WE ACT “Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change” says, “Communities of color, indigenous peoples and low-income communities that are socio-economically disadvantaged, are disproportionately burdened by poor environmental quality and are least able to adapt. They will be hit the worst by climate change.”

I believe this is why communities like those on the Navajo Nation should take advantage of their potential to become energy independent and reduce carbon emissions by using alternative energy sources to support economic growth and the well-being of the environment and the people.

My journey into confronting the biggest crisis we face began in an eighth-grade English class. Our teacher taught us about the skills we need to address issues that we are concerned about, and more importantly, she introduced me to global warming. This is when I started paying more attention to critical issues that people are facing around the world like starvation, health problems, and unjust treatment, and started to realize that something has to be done. I became more and more aware that many of these catastrophes had links to global climate change.

As a senior this past year at the Santa Fe Indian School, I did a project that was about encouraging communities to go green and giving tips to community leaders to join the Green Revolution. That presentation for the Seniors Honors Project was called “Fabricating the Future with our Human Actions.” It was my key to graduating, and it ended up being one of the best presentations of that year. It offered basic things that individuals can do to reduce their energy use and impact on this Earth.

Ever since the eighth-grade I’ve always wanted to be an inventor or an architect of some sort. I want to be a part of creating a green economy, which seems to need bright minds to make the transition possible.

Living a green life the best I can, getting my degree in alternative energy engineering, and being a part of projects that can lead to employment in the industry, like bringing solar to Crownpoint, are steps towards making a green economy a reality.

All we need now is for the state government and private industries to initiate similar projects to help New Mexico be a leader in transitioning into a green economy, which means more jobs and less pollution.

Bryan Watchman is an 18-year-old graduate of the Santa Fe Indian School. He was born in Window Rock, Arizona but spent the majority of life in Santa Fe. He is an intern with New Energy Economy this summer and will attend Luna Community College in the fall.