Published on December 9th, 2019 | by Cynthia Shahan
December 9th, 2019 by Cynthia Shahan
Solar One is an organization that I’ve experienced first hand. An active force in clean urban transition, in particular aiding low-income households, it deserves support. Both organizations I met with in NYC — Solar One and WE ACT — had individuals reflecting the relaxed as well as energetic personalities necessary to make something work, really work.
Read our latest press release: An Innovative Solar One Program Empowers Vulnerable Communities with Resilient Solar + Storage.
— Solar One (@solaronenyc) November 14, 2019
Solar One’s new project is something that needs to work, and I am sure it will. Perhaps it will become a model for a multitude of working organizations to come across the globe. Thanks to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) as well as NYC nonprofit Solar One and its network of installers, volunteer emergency responders and community organizations are getting a boost keeping the lights on during blackouts.
“Whether triggered by unprecedented storms, heatwaves, or wildfires, blackouts are becoming increasingly common and hazardous. New Yorkers who weathered Superstorm Sandy understand better than most how challenging disaster recovery can be when the grid fails. But thanks to a new approach to disaster recovery, a few NYC community centers are about to become clean, resilient power hubs.”
These projects are led by Solar One, a group that not only gets things done, but embodies a palpable social intelligence. “Solar One has received U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding to implement the Solar Power and Battery Back-up Program for Community Facilities. Together with GOSR, qualified installers, and community leaders, this Solar One program builds resilience in front-line communities for the battle against climate change.”
Battery storage is swiftly dropping in price just as solar has done, and it could counter coming climate emergencies in the nick of time due to organizations such as Solar One and its support systems.
Solar One explains the issue, “When the power goes out, grid-tied solar installations automatically shut down to protect utility line workers from excess power feeding back into the grid. While there are thousands of solar installations deployed on buildings in NYC, only a tiny fraction can use their solar power during blackouts due to this safety measure. When paired with batteries, however, solar can safely disconnect from the grid while still providing onsite back-up power. Battery adoption has been slow in NYC due to high costs and nebulous regulations, but following years of diligent project development, research, and technical advances, solar + storage installations are finally moving forward.”
Batteries are a kind of duct tape or super glue of the energy ecosystem. In a recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, RMI predicts a “seismic shift” in how we will power our lives and organize energy systems.
Solar One explains how it works. “The Solar One team identifies which community facilities are the best candidates for energy storage installations. Building location, availability of outdoor space, vulnerability to flooding and blackouts, and other infrastructure considerations are all assessed. Solar One issues a Request for Proposals to installers for the most viable of these sites, aggregating sites for scalability and impact. Finally, Solar One contracts with the most qualified installer and site owner and then serves as a fiscal liaison with GOSR, facilitating the projects from contracting to commissioning and supporting them wherever possible.”
The first of these pioneering projects will be installed by Solar Liberty at four community facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx:
- Birch Family Services (Brooklyn)
- Flatlands Volunteer Ambulance Corps (Brooklyn)
- Throggs Neck Volunteer Ambulance Corps (The Bronx)
- Villa Maria Academy (The Bronx)
There’s a huge market opportunity for #battery technology—new @RockyMtnInst report shows exploding investment in batteries is revolutionizing the sector much faster than expected. Read more: https://t.co/lLfgaS6O7U #Batteries #Renewables #EnergyTwitter pic.twitter.com/W3k82XqFuj
— Rocky Mountain Inst (@RockyMtnInst) October 30, 2019
“Once completed, these projects will provide reliable, renewable back-up power to the buildings during future blackouts, no matter how long they last. Each site will utilize this critical power supply according to its unique strengths. For example, in the case of Throggs Neck Volunteer Ambulance Corps, maintaining building functions during blackouts so it can respond to neighborhood emergencies will be invaluable.”
It is not that long since Superstorm Sandy blasted through crippling rescue efforts with power outages, leaving no electricity to masses of storm survivors. Energy storage will be critical to needs being met in such situations — even immediately in many cases if the energy storage component is set up the right way. Things could change rapidly for emergency services thanks to low-cost batteries.
Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on Villa Maria Academy due to its vulnerable location on the shore of Long Island Sound. What could have been a safe haven seemed less of a choice after that storm. With this new program, it will become a less vulnerable, more resilient, more useful refuge. Supported with solar power and a battery backup installation, the shelter will be able to sustain and nurture life in some of the most challenging circumstances. Villa Maria can offer refuge for hundreds of people during emergencies, providing lighting, cooling, device charging, and basic food services.
School Principal Sr. Teresa Barton says: “When Superstorm Sandy knocked out our power, we had no way of servicing our students and community for about a week. We are so thankful to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery for providing us with the solar power and energy storage that is necessary to avoid a similar circumstance in the future. We are also excited to reduce our environmental impact by using renewable energy.”
Perhaps the best news — this is not the end. More such developments should be on the way. The press release goes on: “These initial projects are paving the way for many more of their kind in the future, including a second round of installations slated for development in late 2020. And these projects don’t just present a new model for resilience in the face of extreme weather events – they also foster awareness and enthusiasm for urban solar + storage installations. That means energy cost savings for neighborhood organizations, more renewable energy in under-served communities, and tangible steps mitigating the effects of climate change.”
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