Most people already know about the environmental benefits of solar power, but solar power has another less-known significant benefit–disaster recovery. Unlike traditional energy systems that rely on being connected to a centralized power-generating facility, solar power can be generated anywhere the sun shines. A solar power system does not rely on hundreds of miles of high electricity wires that make the system vulnerable to falling trees, wind, and floods. Essentially, when traditional power goes out during a natural disaster or storm, solar power would still be up and running.
In the recent devastation of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey solar power played a large part in some of the immediate response because the traditional power supply was almost entirely wiped out. Solar systems allowed first responders like police, firefighters, and medics to charge cell phones, radios, and various other communication devices. In addition, the Midtown Community School and emergency evacuation center in Bayonne, NJ was able to provide refuge to 50 to 75 people in large part due to their solar array. Even after the storm, the school was able to provide light and heat to the refugees with their solar power system.
In order to better respond to future disasters similar to Sandy, many are calling for more similar refugee centers equipped with solar. The furniture company Ikea, who donated over $200,000 to immediate relief from the storm, is financing the building of four more similar community centers in other communities that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
More widespread installation and availability to solar power has the potential to severely soften the blow from another natural disaster like Sandy. This transition will be costly and lengthy, but the potential benefits are too great to pass up.