Guest blog post from our friend & former colleague Shaun Chapman, SolarCity.
Even two weeks later, the air quality in the hardest hit areas of New York City is still extremely poor. There is an enormous amount of dust, human waste, and previously buried pollution in the air.
The stench of gasoline is also pervasive. Since the storm hit, you can smell gas all over parts of Rockaway and Staten Island, as people line up in cars or on foot waiting for to get what little gas is being rationed each day. It’s ironic that gas is so scarce yet, due to all the emergency gas generators and stoves, our lungs are filled with the stuff.
In the hardest hit places like Rockaway and Gerritsen Beach, people have two choices each day: (1) go get some food for the day, maybe find someone to fill a prescription, or inquire about FEMA assistance; or (2) do none of those things, and wait in a four-hour gas line so they can have some heat that night.
It is in this bleak context that the Solar Sandy Project was conceived. First, our company SolarCity partnered with Consolidated Solar to deploy five solar generating units (equipped with battery storage) as quickly as possible. To date these generators have served four areas in Rockaway, with one more scheduled this week. We partnered with NYC-based solar advocacy group Solar One to help spread the word, do community outreach, and host a match making website for areas of further need.
These solar generators can provide power for warmth, cooking, electronics charging, and whatever else people need. And they do all this without burning gas that (a) might be better put to use in cars right now, and (b) would preferably not be burned anyway.
The Solar Sandy Project web page can be found here, and it includes links for the industry to coordinate relief efforts, and also includes a link where you can propose sites for any new generators which come online.
There remains a lot of building and re-building. This storm has had a tremendous impact. It’s gotten New Yorkers to be nice to each other and hipsters to care about things. Having achieved that, our prospects for addressing climate change should be a piece of cake. And here’s to hoping that tackling this problem gets easier. These have been incredibly difficult weeks, and the decisions are going to get harder. This rebuild is going to cost plenty of money. But as that rebuild moves forward, and the usual suspects insist, “We can’t afford new solutions,” I hope you’ll join us in insisting that we can no longer afford the old ones.
Very reasonable people in Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo have spoken passionately about the urgent need to work on climate change. They have done so in quite colorful language at times, for which they can be forgiven (watching parts of your city get leveled tends to have that affect).
But let us not mince words – a super storm / hurricane on the eve of November in New York City, followed by record snowfall a week later is exactly what climate change looks like. And for anyone who wants to look me in the eye and tell me the solutions are too expensive, I have a $50 Billion FEMA bill I need covered.
Shaun Chapman is a New York City resident and Deputy Director of Government Affairs for SolarCity.