Environment

Footprint Project & Rent.Solar Brought Portable Solar Charging Stations To Help Ida Hurricane Victims

Footprint Project, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis whose mission is to provide cleaner energy for communities in crisis, recently joined Rent.Solar on a trip to Louisiana to help those hit hardest by Hurricane Ida. The two brought 4 solar trailers and 60 portable charging stations. The mobile solar unit is paired with battery storage to create microgrids that power relief efforts that are currently on the ground. This is awesome!

I actually got to talk with the Footprint team about their work, and that will be published as a followup to this article.

The two companies noted that they were ready to deploy to Louisiana from the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, which had been suddenly canceled due to Ida. After leaving Louisiana, the storm made its way north and Tennessee was one of several states in its path.

Will Heegaard, Operations Director at Footprint Project, said, “We were tracking Ida while loading into Bonnaroo and immediately began strategizing about how we could deploy while still fulfilling our festival contract.” Both had programming and rental contracts with Bonnaroo this year and the event announced the cancellation just two days after Ida made landfall at Port Fourchon.

The solar and battery systems used were manufactured by Tesla. Richard Birt, who joined Footprint Project and Light Empowered on the trip, pointed out that these systems were a matter of life and death for communities in New Orleans. I can verify this, as I, too, was without power. Although it was for only three days, 140°F inside your home is nothing to play with. In my case, I was fortunate to have clean running water. Many in South Louisiana don’t have access to clean water and were told it would be weeks before they’d get power back. These solar systems being brought down will save lives.

“While it’s incredibly unfortunate for everyone involved that the festival couldn’t go on this year, the ability to get down to communities in need of critical power with such speed and agility is the real reason we do this work,” said Heegaard. Footprint has been in New Orleans since Friday, September 3, and has powered up the New Orleans Veterans of Foreign Wars, which is distributing 500 meals per day to the community.

It’s also powered up Imagine Water Works, which leads the Mutual Aid Response Group of Louisiana. The organization is currently building a list of sites that need the power to be triaged and has prioritized that list based on need service. It’s also sourcing additional solar equipment from industry partners around the country.

Footprint Project will deploy the mobile microgrids through the area. Community centers, medical centers, and fire stations will benefit from the microgrids. Community partners have identified parking lots and street corners as high need areas for cell phone charging, medical and mobility devices, and battery shares.

“We’re incredibly grateful to all our partners and supporters for helping us build back greener in Louisiana,” said Heegaard. In a video that is part of their gallery of images and video, Heegaard explained what type of solar panels they were using for Imagine Water Works.

He explained that this was the second solar generator setup and that the two 50-watt portable solar panels were identical to another setup used for a chest freezer. It included a small, 20-inch charge controller that was donated by Zamp Solar. The charge controller, plugged into the solar panels, runs power to an 830 kWh battery suitcase which was placed in the shade. This system was able to run the command, laptop, and their cell phones that evening. This is just one of the many systems they’ve set up to help the community.

DER Task Force joined the organizations by setting up a fundraiser on GoFundMe with an initial goal of raising $50,000. That has been increased to $75,000, as more than $61,000 has been raised. The funds will enable Footprint Project to deploy the mobile microgrids in New Orleans and the communities hit the hardest by Ida. I’ve donated and I encourage anyone who wants to help to donate as well. SolHomes, Scale Microgrid Solutions, CPower Energy Management, and Brooklyn SolarWorks are just a few companies that have donated to this fundraiser.

When our power was still out, I sat with my neighbors listening to a solar-powered radio that broadcasted Governor Edwards’ press conference. He said that we would get through this and that we need to be good neighbors for one another. That’s something he’s always talking about — being a good neighbor to your fellow citizens. Other states, communities, and organizations are also being good neighbors.

It’s moments like these that give hope for humanity as a whole. Yes, we have bad people who hurt others, but there are good ones who are coming from a place of love and act on those intentions — they seek to make a positive impact and help others. This is what being a good neighbor is all about.

Related story: “The Tesla Community Helped Feed Over 150 Baton Rouge Families Affected By Hurricane Ida

 

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