August 2014

Northern Pueblos Housing Authority’s Clean Energy Projects


Seth Roffman


Northern Pueblos Clean Energy ProjectThe Northern Pueblos Housing Authority (NPHA) has been the federally recognized, Tribally Designated Housing Entity for the pueblos of Picurís, San Ildefonso and Tesuque since 1971. The Authority contributes to the quality of life of those pueblos by developing high-quality housing and business and community facilities. The NPHA is governed by a board of commissioners appointed by its member pueblos.


The leaders of NPHA’s member pueblos see steady development of renewable-energy (RE) power production as a practical way to fulfill their common commitments to the values of tribal sovereignty, responsible stewardship of the Earth and cost-effective government. They support state and regional positioning of sunny northern New Mexico as an economic cluster hub for model green-building demonstration sites and RE businesses.


Over the past five years, NPHA has completed more than $10 million in community-improvement projects in Native communities including RE and energy-efficiency initiatives. The organization has worked independently and cooperatively with publicly funded energy-efficiency providers, such as Los Amigos and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, to retrofit dozens of existing homes on the three pueblos with improved insulation, weather stripping and energy-efficient windows and doors.


In 2010, NPHA used a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency community development block grant to install a solar-power generator demonstration project on the Pueblo of San Ildefonso’s Community Learning Center. NPHA is paving the way for larger projects by developing plans to enhance northern New Mexico’s energy profile by powering facilities such as Tesuque Pueblo’s Intergenerational Center with photovoltaic (PV) technology. The Authority is exploring the feasibility of providing all 300 of the occupied homes in its service area with solar-powered electrical and water-heating systems.


Picurís Pueblo is a sparsely populated, remote, traditional community located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 24 miles south of Taos. Most residents have low incomes and strongly support RE initiatives that would reduce their energy bills. Pueblo officials believe that a solar-powered microgrid would be a reasonable step in moving toward greater energy self-sufficiency. In the meantime, NPHA will significantly enhance fire protection for Picurís and surrounding communities by constructing a Net-Zero Energy Building (NZEB) standard fire station. PV panels will supply primary electrical, building heat and water heating. The fully funded project is underway. NPHA is working with Albuquerque-based Sacred Power on the project.


In April 2014, NPHA Executive Director Scott Beckman and NPHA staff accompanied Tracey LeBeau and Pilar Thomas, director and deputy director of the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, on a tour of the pueblos, where they met with the governors. LeBeau and Thomas develop national energy policy and programs related to Indian energy development. As a follow-up to their discussions and tour, NPHA has received a Technical Assistance Grant for planning with a team from Sandia Laboratories’ Tribal Energy Office. A DOE-led, tribal, strategic energy-planning workshop will commence with three days of community engagement at Picurís Pueblo at the end of August. “This is encouraging support for potential pueblo-wide implementation of alternative energy,” said Jaime Gaskin, NPHA’s development director.



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