A coalition of solar companies and nonprofits are providing the residents of Rockaway Beach with enough power to provide hot food, hot water and a communication hub while the power grid gets restored. A truck named Rolling Sunlight, built by Greenpeace a decade ago to aid in disaster relief while demonstrating renewable power, delivers 2.4 Kilowatts from its 256 square feet of photovoltaic panels, and 50 Kilowatt-hours of battery back up. It is one of several mobile solar generators deployed in the Long Island area that took a beating from the wind, waves and fire that decimated the community.
Almost 8.5 million people lost electricity because of the hurricane that struck the New York and New Jersey coastline on October 29. More than 100 died and thousands remain homeless. Two weeks after the storm thousands were still without power. That’s why the idea of decentralized power, not dependent on the grid, is becoming more attractive, and renewables like solar represent one way to achieve this. With solar panels deployed, associated with large battery storage capacity in every home, a distributed network would prove to be far more resilient in times of disaster. If one solar array goes down it could be quickly replaced providing instant energy. Today Los Angeles is installing solar panels on 12,000 acres of rooftops in the city with the goal to meet a third of its electrical usage through solar by 2020.
Solar in emergencies like Sandy has distinct advantages. There are no moving parts that can be damaged by wind, or wear out. Solar panels are getting cheaper every year.They last a long time. And any excess power they generate can be directly fed into existing transmission lines. In emergencies, traditional fossil fuel portable generators burning diesel and gasoline are deployed. Solar represents an alternative that is lighter, less polluting, and when combined with battery storage, as reliable (consider the fuel rationing that New Yorkers have been experiencing and you might say even more reliable).