The realization that clean energy, namely solar, can save the city in a crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, is sweeping through neighborhoods. Solar, which is renewable, efficient, and off-the-grid, provides energy which was needed throughout the damaged areas of the boroughs lacking in emergency preparation.
A press release in November 2016 announced that the Office of Storm Recovery, funded by Governor Cuomo, appointed 26 facilities and 19 service providers under the New York Rising Community Center Program to create a network of neighborhood-based recovery centers for extreme weather events.
In 2014 the reconstruction plan for Canarsie was set in motion, which was directly inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Two of the hubs are in the Canarsie area, having been identified by the community center program committee as necessary. They will be fitted with solar power and sustainable batteries.
The Canarsie planning committee members include established local organizations such as the Canarsie Disaster Recovery Coalition, Flatlands 108th Block Association, Fresh Creek Civic Association, and the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie. Major non-profits, such as Solar One, the largest weatherization organization in New York State, help connect these local residents with the program’s renewable services.
Kristin Devoe of the Division of Emergency Services for New York City said, “Through our stockpiles, we can provide generators, light towers, etc. to local emergency managers for local use to power essential buildings such as gathering centers, warming centers, critical infrastructure public buildings. However, none of these items are fueled by renewable energy.”
Solar energy is a powerful resource. The lithium ion batteries, its non-toxic counterpart device, stay charged with the sun’s energy for when it is needed, while the excess is sent back into the city’s electrical grid. The Energy Association reports that, “Today’s electricity grid is increasingly vulnerable to threats from nature, terrorists, and accidents. Power outages cost as much as $130 billion annually, while hitting the job-creating commercial and industrial sectors the hardest.”
The Solar One site at Stuyvesant Park Cove on The East River was pummeled when Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. According to their program report that year, they were able to quickly adapt their solar panel system into a crucial charging station for people nearby during the city’s recovery. Without alternative methods for powering electronics, and in one case a child’s nebulizer for asthma, people’s communications and safety would have suffered.
“You have to be prepared,” said Elba O. Melendez and Community Emergency Response Team volunteer from Canarsie.
Melendez and the committee have dedicated their time to readying their neighborhoods for natural disasters. The idea is to transfer Solar One’s adapted crisis methods into full-blown emergency and environmental education centers. “Many sources encourage the use of solar chargers by the general public in the event of a power outage for small items such as personal cell phones, rechargeable or crank operated lanterns, flashlights, and weather radios and these are considered effective in these instances,” said Devoe.
The organizations determined that solar powered devices, panels, and storage batteries would be the most helpful to maintain communications and basic comforts during a crisis recovery in Canarsie. Even suggesting in the reconstruction plan that resilient street lights powered by solar energy would improve safety during an emergency.
Angelica Ramdhari, Solar One Project Director of NYRCR Solar and Battery Backup Program for Community Facilities, hopes to create backup power for neighborhoods in need with elderly or local residents that have less access to charging, resources, and transportation.