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Sandra Begay - Nature's Energy

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Meet Dr. Sandra Begay

Research and Development Engineer at Sandia National Labs

This Project:

Solar and Wind Energy for Homes on the Navajo Reservation

As a kid, Sandra Begay went to school at a Native American Boarding School. Every morning

Cool monorail. But too expensive.

she had to walk from the showers to the dining hall. It was freezing in the winter, especially with wet hair. In the fourth grade she dreamed up a “fix.” A monorail. With warm train cars.

That idea would cost a lot of money. But it made her think. She liked to fix problems. Maybe she could solve problems for a living. When she learned that engineers fix problems, she knew what she had to do. Go to college and become an engineer.

It was not easy for Sandra to become an engineer. She didn’t learn the math she needed in high school. She had to take college math classes for two years before she could study engineering. It was hard. She was afraid that she couldn’t do it. But she asked for help. She got tutors. She joined study groups. She practiced until it made sense. Now she puts all that knowledge and good sense to work, fixing problems. And that led her back home, to the Navajo Reservation.

Getting electricity to your home can be a problem on the reservation. More than eighteen thousand Navajos do not have electricity for lights, refrigerators, computers, or cell phones. Sandra is helping to fix that.

A big part of her job is to listen to her client, the person she is helping. Then she looks for possible solutions. She and the client together decide what steps to take. For example, they might build an electric line to the client’s house. But that would cost thirty-two thousand dollars for every mile of line. Some of her clients would need to build over one hundred miles of electric line. That would cost more than three million dollars!

Sandra had a better idea. Renewable energy. Using nature, the sun and wind, to make electricity.

"As a Navajo, we understand the planet, the land we live on, has rules and we must work within those rules."
Solar Panels
Wind Turbine
Batteries store extra electricty.

Solar panels and a wind turbine cost money to buy. Once they are in place, the electricity is made by wind and sun. It's free. It does not pollute the air or land. And any extra electricity made by the solar panels or wind turbine is stored in batteries. Even on dark, windless nights, the batteries can power your refrigerator and your lights.

Sandra likes working outdoors with the people in her tribe. They understand that the earth has rules. We must live within those rules to protect our planet and ourselves. Sandra is proud of the work she does helping people and helping our planet at the same time.

Watch an online interview with Sandra Begay to learn more about her.

Read these books about renewable energy . . .


by William Kamkwamba

First, you need to know this is a true story.

When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library . . . and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.

This uplifting story has been turned into a Netflix movie.


What is energy? Where does it come from? Can it be destroyed? What will we do when we run out of fossil fuels? Is dark energy real?

Visit author Dan Green’s website at or view his Amazon author page.


Join Max Axiom for an electrifying adventure to learn all about how power is produced and harnessed for human use.

Find our more about author Liam O’Donnell at or on his Amazon page.


. . . and visit these websites.


Bill Nye the Science Guy explains solar energy.

Fourth graders make solar-powered classroom.

Nova, how wind power works.


Photo Credits

Footage/ Photos provided by Twin Cities Public Television, Inc.

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