Global Green and Ikea Are Bringing Emergency Solar to Sandy-Struck Neighborhoods. Let's Hope Energy Planners Follow Their Lead.

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After Hurricane Sandy hit last fall, the Midtown Community School and emergency evacuation center in Bayonne, New Jersey, garnered a lot of attention, for providing emergency housing, with light and heat, for 50 to 75 residents. It was able to do this thanks in large part to the solar array on its roof.


Emergency solar power, pictured here on the roof of a high school and evacuation center in Bayonne, New Jersey, made light and heat possible for local residents who'd lost electricity after Hurricane Sandy. Now, in an effort to inspire a more resilient and green grid, Global Green USA and Ikea are bringing emergency solar power to neighborhoods hard hit by that storm.

There’s a growing understanding that in this age of climate change, solar has an important role to play not just in cutting carbon pollution but also in making our electric grid more resilient. And that understanding is evident this week, at the Clinton Global Initiative convention, in Chicago. (The confab is half donor event, half revival meeting, where organizations and businesses pledge to make efforts to make the world a better place.) At CGI America yesterday, international retailer Ikea and our friends at the equally international Global Green announced a collaboration that will bring solar emergency power to another community hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy: Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Their commitment, says Global Green USA President and CEO Matt Petersen, “really goes back to when Hurricane Katrina happened and we put forth a plan of how we could build back the community in a greener, more resilient way. That, in turn,” he says, “harkened back to our founding by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993 to be a Red Cross for the environment.”

The 25-50 kilowatt system, to be installed at a community center still to be chosen, will provide solar during normal operation and solar power, with battery backup, in the event the grid goes down. Not only will the center have light when other buildings in the neighborhood do not, but local residents will be able to store medicines that require refrigeration. Kids can read at night. Neighbors can charge the cellphones they need to communicate with the outside world.

Ikea is donating funding for this and at least four other centers in neighborhoods devastated by Sandy. After the hurricane, the company contributed more than $200,000 worth of mattresses, bedding, flashlights, food and water to neighbors of its Red Hook store. But the retailer, committed to renewable energy, wanted to do more.

The systems Global Green and Ikea plan to create will be made possible, in part, by funding New York State has provided through the New York-Sun Initiative.

Our lawmakers in Albany are currently poised to pass a 10-year extension of that important program, which can help more communities benefit from projects like this. That bill is projected to:

  • Power 400,000 homes in the state with clean, dependable solar energy
  • Shave billions of dollars off New Yorkers’ energy bills
  • Put thousands of New Yorkers to work in solar installation, maintenance & manufacturing
  • Encourage clean energy investments here to the tune of millions of dollars

But time is running out.  Governor and the state house must reach a three-way agreement on the final bill language before the.legislative session ends June 20.(Click here to tell our state leaders to get moving on this important legislation before the end of the legislative session next week.)

In the meantime, residents of Red Hook are looking forward. And with good reason. These Ikea/Global Green installations will be more than just demonstration projects, and more, even, than community lifelines soon to be built. Says Petersen, “This is about taking responsibility for climate change and building a resilient system of microgrids based on renewable energy.” Just as the Midtown Community School’s solar system in Bayonne helped bring attention to the benefits of solar emergency power, these Global Green/Ikea systems should inspire our political leaders to envision new ways of generating energy that protect our neighborhoods and our climate even during the worst disasters, Petersen says.

“These systems need to be prioritized by policy makers so that every at-risk neighborhood has essential services in times of need.”