Solar After The Storm


While most solar arrays here on the East Coast (including the 24 kW ground-mounted system at the Solar Industry offices) proved to be physically resilient when Superstorm Sandy came barreling through in late October, these largely grid-tied systems were unable to come to the rescue when the power went out.

During the frustrating post-storm days of often extended electricity outages, this reality rekindled discussion about the merits of battery backup – considered too expensive to be practical in most cases – and how best to make use of distributed generation when the central grid falls victim to natural disaster. These conversations will be ongoing.

In the meantime, in neighborhoods that were particularly battered by the storm, solar power is providing powerful relief – thanks to an industry effort that I think all readers will agree is worthy of highlighting.

Organizers of the Solar Sandy project, launched in mid-November, have delivered a number of 10 kW mobile solar generators to New York's Staten Island and the Rockaways – areas dealing with severe damage and an urgent need for temporary electricity for both relief workers' efforts and residents' basic needs.

Solar One, a New York-based green energy, arts and education center, teamed with mobile solar provider Consolidated Solar, national PV installer SolarCity and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on the project. With an ongoing gasoline shortage in the area, the advantages of solar-powered generators over traditional gas-fired generators are clear, Solar One notes on its website. Solar power also found its way to the rooftop of the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, courtesy of partner organization Power Rockaways Resilience.

As Solar Sandy expands, assistance with the deployment, installation and continued maintenance of these arrays will be needed. This is where SI's readers come in. Project organizers have put out a call for in-the-field volunteer work from local PV installation professionals – especially those who are experienced with off-grid systems and battery technologies. Distant installers and anyone else interested in helping are encouraged to donate money or supplies to local efforts.

Whether you're an installer based in the New York area and can help in person or a solar manufacturer located across the globe, you can click here for more information on this valuable initiative, including the latest on updated needs.

This article was originally published in the December 2012 issue of Solar Industry.

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