Members of Boxpower Inc.install a hybrid renewable energy system that would bring power to the Ramapough Lenape at the Mahwah campground. Viorel Florescu/NorthJersey.com
MAHWAH — The Ramapough Lenape Nation’s prayer ground is now on the electrical grid, courtesy of renewable energy technology donated by Princeton University graduates.
The energy system arrived at the Ramapoughs’ 14-acre property on Friday, in the form of a 20-foot metal shipping container. Solar panels were attached to the side of the shipping crate, and a wind turbine that connects directly to an energy storage system inside the crate was raised.
At its peak, the system can produce about 2.5 kilowatt hours per day, said Angelo Campus, who founded the company BoxPower after graduating from Princeton. The device’s power output is a fraction of the 20 kilowatt hours used by the average American household. Still, it’s enough to serve the Ramapoughs’ modest needs.
“This will power our cellphones, laptops, lights and small refrigerators,” said Muriyd Williams, whose tribal name is Two Clouds.
The box will also power LED lights, security cameras and possible movie screenings at the prayer ground, he said.
BoxPower, a California-based company, donated and installed the device free of charge to the tribe.
The device is the first of its kind to be deployed in the United States, said Campus. It serves as a prototype for a much larger system that can generate up to 70 kilowatt hours daily, he said.
The founders were inspired to develop the technology following disasters like the Haiti earthquake of 2010, which wreaked havoc on the local energy infrastructure and caused widespread blackouts, co-founder Aaron Schwartz said.
“By using renewable energy, we can provide power even when traditional fuel sources are not available,” he said.
The company hopes to provide similar devices to indigenous people in Arizona, New Mexico and South Dakota, many of whom live on reservations without access to electricity.
Schwartz said Ramapough tribe leaders had requested a mobile solar system to meet the group’s energy needs, which were dire because the prayer camp is not on the local electrical grid.
Williams, or Two Clouds, said the box is another step toward making the prayer ground self-sustainable. The tribe created its own food source this spring by planting a row of crops that yield tomatoes, carrots and cherries.
The installation occurs at a time when the Ramapoughs and township officials are entangled in a legal battle over teepees and other structures on the tribe’s Halifax Road property. The township claims the tribe violated local zoning regulations by failing to obtain permits to use its property as a campground and place of public assembly.
Township Engineer Mike Kelly said the tribe did not seek permission to install the box, but declined to comment further Friday.
Mayor Bill Laforet said there is a local ordinance that requires obtaining a permit for trailers.
“This does create a significant increase in the usage on that property,” he said of the box.