Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Asia Tsunami: Solar Energy for Disaster Relief

"When natural disasters strike these days, the international response tends to be the same - immediate interest, immediate help but long term neglect."
BBC News

According to William Young, a research engineer at the Florida Solar Energy Center:

"the importance of electricity during and following a disaster is not always appreciated until the power actually goes out. It is not only vital for keeping streets lit, but it is necessary for medical services and communications. "When power lines are down, citizens cannot be promptly informed of hazards, and it's difficult to notify emergency workers of situations that require their attention. Electrical power is also crucial to medical clinics, which must operate such electronic equipment as vaccine refrigerators, other medical equipment, and emergency lighting."

There had been limited use of photovoltaics in disasters until 1989. PV has supplied emergency power following Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew, Mitch and Luis as well as after the Northridge Earthquake in Southern California.

Several years before Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, USA, PV-powered streetlights had been installed in a Miami suburb. After the storm, all 33 streetlights were still standing and provided the only light in the area until utility power was restored. In response to Hurricane Luis, Miox Corporation provided PV-powered water purification units to the Virgin Islands, USA. The units produce hundreds of gallons of potable water each day.

A viable use for PV is to meet the emergency demands in large-scale disasters, where power will be out for long periods of time and survivor support is difficult to provide due to the extensive area destroyed. Massive infrastructure damage makes refueling generators a challenge, as pumping stations are often inoperable and roads impassable. Power distribution lines are difficult to fix because of the impassable roads, much less transporting materials for reconstruction. When a disaster strikes an island and the port is destroyed, shipping fuel for generators becomes a problem.

PV is a viable source of electrical power for certain disaster relief applications such as low power needs and long term use.

There are inappropriate applications for photovoltaics in response to disasters. The large-scale power needs of sewer and water facilities, hospitals, large shelters, distribution and emergency operations centers are better met with gasoline or diesel generators in an emergency.

William Young's article (pdf) on Photovoltaics: Disaster and Energy Security Applications
(view as html)

Disaster Relief article on the use of Solar Power in a crisis

Article on the technological challenges facing CARE Canada and the Canadian Red Cross (including the use of solar power)

News and information Blog about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts for the Asia Earthquake and Tsunami


Blogger Matt Prescott said...

This is an excellent article James!

Keep up the good work!

Best wishes



9:12 am, January 05, 2005  

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