Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution

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What is the name of your solution?

YKD Solar

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Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

YKD Solar is providing small scale solar solutions to homes on the Navajo Nation with no access to conventional power sources.

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What specific problem are you solving?

In a study conducted by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority on the Navajo Nation, it was revealed that 15,000 homes are still un-electrified. In 2022, this puts thousands of people at a disadvantage by limiting their access to energy needed for school, work and communication. For these citizens living off-grid on homesteads to care for livestock and fields, their options are limited. Many resort to using energy sources such as kerosene lamps, which contribute to indoor air pollution, and battery-operated flashlights and lanterns, which are expensive over time. Students are met with challenges that prohibit their success in school, and the elderly are left cut-off from relatives for long periods of time. Many people have access to mobile phone and computer technology, but have limited access to energy necessary to keep their devices charged.

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What is your solution?

YKD Solar will deliver small scale solar energy to elders and homes
with children that do not have access to power lines. We propose
that your organization support our continued efforts to bring install
teams to Navajo Nation and install lights, a solar panel, and an
electric generator. We have already installed 52 kits in homes on Navajo
and we don't want to stop our work. Our project is already changing
the community. Children can do their home work after the sun goes down.
Airborne illnesses are being curbed because our elders and kids no
longer need to burn kerosene or dangerously light their homes at night
with indoor propane tanks. Our greatest barrier is time. We believe
more people on the ground would further our efforts. Our partner, GoalZero, remains committed. We have already conducted installation trips, however, the installs have halted due to COVID-19. More people and improved technology would mean we could increase the number of installation trips that we carry out. We would like to create a mobile app that will incorporate GIS technology to track impact areas and gather community data for use by our teams in order to improve access and meet the current needs of students, elders and others who live off-grid. The app will allow YKD Solar to carry out individualized energy audits in which we assess target home energy consumption in order to identify what measures can be taken to make the home more energy efficient. On tribal nations, energy sovereignty and energy independence are challenges that can be addressed with 1-to-1 education and by providing easy-to-use tools.

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?

The target population are citizens of the Navajo Nation. We wish to target households with school aged youth. Our work over the last 10 years illuminating family homes has established our ties to the impacted families. We utilize K'é which may be roughly translated as reciprocity, family, and relations. Through K'é, we establish our relationship as siblings, parent to child, grandparent to grandchild, aunt or uncle. Essentially, all Navajo people are related to one another. We use terms such as "Shimá" or "Shizh'e'é" to address our relatives and live up to our responsibilities. In this case, we wish to illuminate households and allow for technology used for work and school to be charged. Our solution will provide reading light for homework, charging capabilities for WiFi hot spot devices, power for phones and laptops so remote learning may continue after the sun goes down.

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Adrian, Executive Director of Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution (YKD), was born on the Navajo Nation. She grew up, attended college, and, upon graduation, moved home to make a life for herself and serve as a leader in her community. Located in the heart of the Navajo Nation, YKD is based on the Navajo Nation and situated in proximity to several thousand families with no access to the traditional electric grid. Both Adrian and Michael are able to communicate in Diné bizaad (Navajo language), have access to translators when a situation requires it, understand K'é, and serve as public figures by virtue of their work with Diné College. Adrian has spent her entire academic and professional career understanding how electric power lines bypass Navajo citizens' homes in order to provide power to Page, Farmington, Flagstaff, Holbrook, and Gallup. She has worked to solve this problem for the last decade and will continue to advocate for this basic privilege of having a bit of light and energy after the sun goes down that most others can take for granted. YKD Solar has worked to ground the idea of sunlight as a sacred element within the universe as the core of this solution. Many traditional songs utilized in ceremonies memorialize the balance between Mother Earth and Father Sky. The sunlight, through the process of photosynthesis, allows for corn, beans, and squash to blossom on earth. In many ways, we wish to utilize this same basic premise within Navajo Philosophy to light up homes.

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Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Tsaile, AZ, USA
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Our solution's stage of development:

Concept
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How many people does your solution currently serve?

52

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Why are you applying to Solve?

YKD Solar needs assistance with developing a prototype of the mobile application that we envision, collecting and using data to improve our reach, expanding our client base, and sourcing talent to join us in this mission. Currently, the need for solar power is great on the Navajo Nation. In short, without greater support, the YKD Solar project cannot grow to meet our own goal of powering homes with school aged children and elders. That said, we realize that this opportunity is also about connecting with other Solver teams. We are well aware that many of the grander electricity shortage solutions involve kilowatt systems. We would welcome connecting with other solar companies with appropriate ethical standards as partners. Additionally, with solar input is the strong impact of output. Hence, we also recognize that some of our elders require more energy efficient refrigerators to store their food and medicines. Some elders have resorted to storing their cold required medications underground but this is no real solution. Partnering with appliance manufacturers is also another way to make a dent in the energy needs of the Navajo Nation. Finally, our team can always use extra hands, voices and minds. A team of 20 installers can easily change 40 homes in a weekend. In many cases, we do more than install panels and leave. We often visit and laugh with our elders, chop some wood, do a little roof repair, and others practice K'é as we learn from those that have so much knowledge of Diné Bikéyah (Navajo homeland).

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)
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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Adrian Lerma

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your Team Lead.

Diné (Navajo Nation)

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Is the Team Lead a resident of the United States?

Yes

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Strengthen sustainable energy sovereignty and support climate resilience initiatives by and for Indigenous peoples.

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More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

This solution is innovative because the mobile app that we are proposing does not currently exist, though there is an expressed need for it. It will improve on our current practices and elevate our capabilities to provide useful information and solutions to indigenous community members. The innovation comes two fold: energy use monitoring and GIS mapping. YKD Solar is in the greatest position to address energy demands if they are able to understand current energy demand among Navajo citizens. Secondly, GIS mapping will allow clear understanding of the broader network of families and their network based energy needs. We foresee that the use of this technology will boost the understanding of energy use and increase energy independence in homes all across the Navajo Nation. By introducing "rez-tested, grandma-approved" solar technology and 1-to-1 education into homes as an introduction to renewable energy, we become catalysts, sparking an interest and improving the understanding of the many options available to off-grid homesteaders and energy-conscious homeowners. The use of the app will help YKD Solar assess the energy needs and provide solutions for greater levels of energy efficiency over time. The GIS technology will assist our teams with mapping out the landscape and improving access to very remote areas across the Southwest.

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What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Goal #1 Good health & well being

  • The elimination of indoor air pollution that will result from the disuse of 'dirty' energy sources such as kerosene lamps will greatly improve the health and wellness of Navajo families.

Goal #2 Affordable & clean energy

  • YKD Solar will provide access to affordable, expandable & clean renewable energy facilitated by solar technology.

Goal #3 Reduced inequalities

  • Navajo Nation is on the underdeveloped side of the digital divide. Access to information technology is akin to a third world country. Cellular service can be spotty and many families rely on mobile hotspots to remain engaged with primary, secondary, and post secondary education. By providing access to energy that powers mobile devices such as phones, tablets and laptops, and WiFi hotspots, we are taking steps to help bridge the digital divide.

Goal #4 Responsible production & consumption

  • By providing education about energy consumption, carbon footprints and safety, YKD Solar is empowering families to be responsible and cautious as they move forward, while addressing the issue of families lighting their homes in unsafe manners. Some families feel powerless and light their homes with kerosene, propane, or even fires and tend to suffer elevated levels of respiratory issues. Our proposal goes a long way toward providing a feasible and safer alternative to lighting needs. Powering up technology is the perk of our proposal.

Goal #5 Climate action

  • We will be sharing information with community members about the toxic dependency that indigenous nations have historically had on resource extraction. Many households will likely have at least one member, possibly more, that are already inspired to take action toward mitigating climate change. Our future generation will be empowered to offset the negative and sometimes disastrous relationship that we have with the energy production on tribal lands.
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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

With 15,000 homes without access to electricity, our goal is to put a
dent in that number by providing portable power to 200 homes in the next
year, which equates to 1,000 homes in the next five years. In the past,
we have been able to plan, organize and carry out 50 solar installs in one quarter with a team of 20. Therefore, we are confident that we can meet our impact goals.

Our energy use app will help us have the most comprehensive understanding of the energy needs on the Navajo Nation. With this information, we will be able to more readily address individual family energy needs. GIS mapping will provide the only existing data on locations on the Navajo Nation which is a landscape containing many unpaved roads and few street addresses. We are confident this endeavor will be successful as the number of delivery trucks (Fedex/UPS) climb every year. If these companies can track customers, so can we keep track of our relatives and their energy needs.

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What is your theory of change?

Navajo Nation citizens have heard many promises about having power in their homes. We have a motto, "The electric company can get you a line in 6 to 9 months. YKD Solar can get you powered up in 6 to 9 days". In fact, our capabilities are even more rapid. If the solar generator is in stock, we often get them installed in under one hour. Families that see the light on after an install get the biggest smiles. Children can do their homework later into the night. Masaniis and Cheiis (Grandmothers and Grandfathers) can charge their phones. The evidence to support our findings, unfortunately, is anecdotal. However, future findings will be empirically documented through our GIS mapping and energy audit data. For now, our data is recorded in the smiles and laughter we see and here when we run into clients at flea markets. The 52 families we have impacted seem to like us and great us as relatives as it should be. We often continue working with them to be sure they have all their needs met in terms of maintaining their solar energy systems.

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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The technology we have been employing is a solar panel (Boulder 15/Boulder 50), a portable power pack (Yeti 150), and a LED lanterns (Light-A-Life 360). The technology was created by the Goal Zero company. Each system is expandable. The knowledge system is based on the relationship between Mother Earth and Father Sky. In the Navajo epistemology, Earth is your Mother and Sky is your Father. Father provides light and darkness. Mother provides corn, beans, and squash to eat. The miracle of a sunrise, a daily occurrence, is encapsulated in Nahadzaan Biyin or Mother Earth songs. While many may regard these songs in certain specific manners, we are the only people, thus far, to see these songs and ceremonial processes as the memorialization of the process of photosynthesis. Sunlight travels 8 minutes to the earth and begins the photosynthesis process with corns, beans, and squash every dawn. We are utilizing technology to collect solar energy to be used at night.

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • GIS and Geospatial Technology
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United States
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In which states do you currently operate?

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
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In which states will you be operating within the next year?

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
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Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

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How many people work on your solution team?

2

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How long have you been working on your solution?

5 years

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What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

YKD Solar is a Native American female owned small business. In fact, we are mom & pop shop for innovation. We have 7 kids and hope that they will pick up the tasks as we get older. Hopefully the children will take over our work. When the time comes to expand our business, we will be certain to ensure our labor force and leadership is diverse, equitable and inclusive. Both owners of YKD solar and marginalized people of color. We work hard to be aware of the barriers people face and eliminate them as best we can. Our true endeavor is to work with the best and brightest from any walk of life.

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Our business model: Service Subsidization

Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution sells products and services to an external market to help fund social programs. We are a Limited Liability Corporation, however, we have philanthropy built into our business model, which includes charitable distributions on the Navajo Nation.

We provide visibility and research services with an emphasis on Federal Indian Law and Policy, Indigenous Research Methods, Tribal Government, Indigenous Human Rights; as well as, consultation services related to
community-based participatory research, and indigenized marketing &
branding.

Our business activities and social programs overlap. With over 10 years of experience providing support services to individuals, organizations and small businesses on tribal lands and in indigenous communities, we can leverage our intangible assets (i.e. expertise, methodologies, relationships) to support the communities we serve.



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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

We are official factory-authorized vendors of 'rez-tested, grandma-approved’ solar technology manufactured by Goal Zero. Therefore, we can purchase products at wholesale rates, which brings down costs to support charitable distributions. We provide portable, affordable solar technology and installation services on the Navajo Nation. As local vendors, we deliver anywhere within the four sacred mountains. For clients who would like to upgrade their systems, or expand their current system, we can meet their needs. For low income clients, we can offer products at discounted rates by taking a cut to our profit.

We also seek out grant funding and service contracts to indigenous-led organizations. In the past we have provided services to Change Labs and Rezilience Organization.

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Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

Since we launched Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution, we have secured approximately $67,000 from sales revenue, grant funding and service contracts.

We have partnered with the following companies and organizations:

  • Grant Canyon Trust
  • Change Labs
  • Rezilience Organization
  • Happy Accidents Media Production
  • Goal Zero


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Solution Team

  • Mrs Adrian Lerma Executive Director of Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution, Yahuaca Knowledge Distribution
  • ML ML
 
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