Solar Generators Power Sandy-Stricken Areas

Monday, December 03, 2012

A non-profit clean energy group, Solar One, has been deploying solar generators to areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy. The group currently has several generators running in the Rockaways, and made a recent delivery to Midland Beach on Staten Island.

The delivery went to a community-run center operating at St. Margaret Mary Roman Catholic Church. Adjacent to the church’s gymnasium is a building still without power. There, volunteers have set up services like a legal clinic, to help residents with their paperwork, and a free store, packed with donated goods like soap and canned foods.

Outside is a small yard with tents where residents can get a massage, sign up to volunteer for the day, or just rest. Several groups and individual volunteers have set up shop here, to help provide services. It’s become a one-stop shop for residents in need. 

It’s also where the new solar generator will reside. Max Joel, with Solar One, hopes it will provide some small conveniences. “People will be able to charge cell phones, charge laptops … can run a small refrigerator, lighting,” he said. “For a lot of the things I’m seeing around the site here, it should serve pretty well.”

(Goldi Guerra, Jonathan Lane, and Max Joel, with the solar generator deployed to Midland Beach on Sunday.)

Solar One said it identifies sites by partnering with relief groups, or grassroots organizations on the ground. The generators are made by another company, DC Solar Solutions, and distributed by Consolidated Solar. In this case, the deployment was sponsored by HSBC, and the group worked with Occupy Sandy, a volunteer offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Goldi Guerra, a volunteer with Occupy Sandy, said he’s happy about the prospect of using quiet, clean energy from the solar generator, after many days of listening to the hum of gas powered generators.

“It’s just going to be a great way to show this community that, you know, things can be done in a better way,” he said. “Instead of waiting for Con Ed to turn on the grid, we can have our own little grid.”

The actual generator is made of two giant solar panels, the size of large dining room tables. It was hauled in on a trailer from Red Hook, Brooklyn, where it was used until power was restored. About a dozen men helped lift the trailer over the curb and into the yard, to the sound of cheers once it cleared the entryway.

Some residents at the community center watched with anticipation. Others, like Robin Michelle of Dongan Hills, had some questions.

“A generator to put lights on in here? … Yea, I think that would be a great idea,” she said. “Does heat come with that?”

It’s the big things, like heat, electricity, and home repairs that many here have on their minds, as they continue with recovery.

Laura Lamont’s Midland Beach home was destroyed by Sandy. She watched with interest as the trailer carrying the solar generator was backed into the yard.

"That would probably be a lot of help because now as the houses are being gutted they're still so wet, and as they come around to ask what we need, it's really not so much cleaning supplies, not so much clothes anymore. [It's] generators, extension cords," she said.

Solar One has ten generators it's been moving around to storm-damaged areas. When one site gets back on its feet, the group is able to redeploy solar generators to other areas in need. It hopes to place them on the Jersey Shore and Long Island soon.

Correction: WNYC incorrectly identified Consolidated Solar as the maker of the generators. That is incorrect. It is the distributor. WNYC regrets the error.

Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC
Volunteers and residents worked together to lift the trailer carrying the solar generator over the curb and into the yard.
Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC
Volunteers had to manuever the trailer into the gates and behind the building, where the solar generator was placed for maximum sunlight.
Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC
Laura Lamont, whose home was destroyed, said what people need now are generators and extensions cords, as they clean out their homes.
Annmarie Fertoli/WNYC
Robin Michelle had some questions about how the generator might be used at the site.


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Comments [5]


Great idea! In an ideal (or maybe just reasonable) world, use of mobile solar emergency generators with robust battery storage and an easy hybrid power generation add-on option would be widespread. Kind of a no-brainer. Solar One and Consolidated Solar are to be congratulated for pushing the concept against the tide of bureaucracy.

By the way, the Consolidated Solar generator is not the only solar generator operating in New York for Hurricane Sandy relief. SolaRover, another player in the field, has a larger portable/ mobile unit (about double the capacity) operating in the Rockaway region. For a 2 minute YouTube video, see:

Dec. 07 2012 10:43 AM

Old Coach asks:
"What will that $10,000 gadget do that can't be done with a $400 generator?"
Well, it won't need any fuel - ever.
"And the generator will work at night when you most need it."
If it has batteries, it will.

A system about this size has been completely powering my home for 20 yrs now. No electric bill, no fuel, no noise, no emissions. It's the best investment I ever made!

Dec. 06 2012 05:14 PM
The Old Coach

What will that $10,000 gadget do that can't be done with a $400 generator? And the generator will work at night when you most need it. Publishing this marketing stunt is a disservice to the community.

Dec. 05 2012 02:16 AM

Thanks for pointing that out, Chris! We've fixed it.

Dec. 04 2012 01:06 PM

Great article Annmarie! A quick note, the generators are manufactured by DC Solar Solutions in California. Consolidated Solar is the east coast distributor, you can find us at Thanks!

Dec. 04 2012 01:19 AM

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