For days after Sandy passed, people with canisters in hand have been lining up outside of gas stations to get their share of the limited fuel supply. With the power grid down, backup gas generators have been keeping the power on for some families. It’s not a great system — it’s dirty, it’s inefficient, it involves waiting on gas lines for hours — but for most people, it’s the best option. But there are a couple of examples around the city where people have rigged up a better alternative: solar generators.
The solar industry’s Solar One, SolarCity, and Consolidated Solar are leading the Solar Sandy Project — an effort to get at least a few solar generators out on the streets of New York. They already had two 10-kilowatt generators up before the weekend, one in Staten Island and one in Rockaway Beach, and last we heard they were aiming to get three more up by the end of Sunday. Ten kilowatts isn’t a huge amount of power, but it’s more than enough to give people a place to charge their phones, power their tools, use their laptops, and heat up food, the companies say.
Greenpeace also brought out a solar-power station: its Rolling Sunlight truck, which has solar panels and an energy-storage system that can hold up to 50 kilowatt-hours of energy. Because of the storage component, the truck can provide power at night, too.
It’s nice to think that the aftermath of an eco-catastrophe won’t be forcing everyone to use unsustainable power sources that will probably only make climate change (and future disasters) worse. And because the power source for these generators is free and widely available, there’s no waiting in lines for hours and hours, either. Which, from the perspective of the people using them, may be the best thing about it.